Defense counsel Thomas Hannis’ cross-examination of expert witness Gary Platt at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Wednesday focused on several important events leading up to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, including the logistics of the deadly attack itself.
Platt’s initial testimony, presented over the course of the past month, has been of foundational importance to the prosecution’s case against the five defendants accused of the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others on February 14, 2005.
As in previous days of cross-examination, Hannis tried to provide alternative explanations for various scenarios that Platt had laid out in his testimony – including the organization of the so-called “red network” of cellphones, which was allegedly used in the planning and execution of the assassination.
Hannis’ investigation homed in on the reason for the limited use of the red phones. According to Platt, the phones were only used outside south Beirut. Many of the alleged conspirators lived in the southern suburbs, Platt argued, and the phones’ strategic use was an attempt to divert attention away from the geographic source of the plot.
Hannis questioned Wednesday whether the original purchaser of the phones could possibly have known what the devices would eventually be used for. “You had no idea whether the purchaser of the red phones knew that they would be used in connection with an assassination, right?” Hannis asked.
Platt responded by acknowledging that he had no way of determining the intent of the purchaser, but that he was able to infer that “someone within the group was aware of the situation and the need to have distance between themselves and the phones that they were going to use on the day of the attack.”
Moreover, Platt emphasized, it would have been important for the defendants to keep the phones used during the attack separate from other phones that were extensively used in the original planning stages.
“They were aware that the red phones might be discovered. They figured that they would need a ‘clean’ set of phones that would be used exclusively for the monitoring of Hariri’s movements, and then on the actual attack day,” he said.
The later part of Wednesday’s session focused on the logistics of the attack – primarily on how instructions were conveyed to the bomber if, as the prosecution asserts, he did not have a cellphone. “Without a cellphone, how would he know precisely when to detonate the bomb?” Hannis asked.