During their final day of cross-examination, defense counsel at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Wednesday pressed expert witness Gary Platt on the veracity of cell records related to a so-called false claim of responsibility. The prosecution claims that, as part of the conspiracy leading up to the attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others, two people made efforts to frame a man named Ahmad Abu Adass for the explosion. The alleged goal, according to the prosecution, was to direct attention away from the actual conspirators.
The prosecution alleges that two of the named suspects in the case – Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – left a taped confession made by Abu Adass in a tree outside the Beirut offices of Al-Jazeera. The defense counsel for Oneissi, Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, focused on text messages sent between Oneissi and Sabra, as well as between Al-Jazeera staff members who were near their offices when the tape was found.
The prosecution relied on cellphone data to establish the location of the five named defendants at various points in the lead-up to the attack. In this case, prosecutors used the predictive coverage of various cell towers near the Al-Jazeera headquarters to locate Oneissi near the offices at the time the tape was discovered.
Courcelle-Labrousse, however, emphasized that the area where the tape was found was at the confluence of several different cell tower areas, making it difficult to ascertain the exact originating location of various calls and SMS messages. “We’ve observed that when you’re at the site of the tree, you can accidentally switch to multiple cell towers,” Courcelle-Labrousse said.
Because the geographic coverage of these other cell towers was expansive, Courcelle-Labrousse claimed that there was no precise evidence placing Oneissi in the area. “You have no material at all corroborating that [Oneissi] was in a specific location at a specific time. What you have is predictive coverage that doesn’t represent reality,” he said. “You can’t derive conclusion from that.”
In a separate and dramatic episode near the end of Courcelle-Labrousse’s cross-examination, he threatened to withdraw if the presiding judges continued to interrupt his questioning. “The Oneissi team shall withdraw if we keep getting interrupted on points that are not relevant,” he said. “I cannot work under these conditions.”
The issue was eventually resolved and the defense continued.
After Platt’s testimony came to an end, expert witness John Edward Philips was brought in to discuss what he called “single user analysis.”
According to Philips, the term refers to the process by which investigators can determine whether multiple phones might have been used by a single person. His testimony will continue on April 20.