Defense counsel Thomas Hannis detailed alternate explanations for evidence presented by expert witness Gary Platt, in his first day of cross-examination Tuesday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Platt’s testimony on covert cellular networks has been integral to the prosecution’s case against five defendants charged in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005.
Hannis’ cross-examination included questions on the coordination of the covert cellular networks, the surveillance of Hariri, and the so-called “red network” phones allegedly used by those who carried out the attack.
In each situation, Hannis sought to demonstrate that there were various possible explanations for claims that Platt had made throughout his testimony last month.
When discussing the possible reasons why several of the covert phone networks were shut down after the attack, Platt had suggested that “the controller, the organizer of the network, may have gotten spooked by something and decided to stop paying the fees.”
Hannis posed an alternative option Tuesday, calling his and Platt’s divergent explanations “equally as probable.”
“We don’t know who was in control of the other phones. There’s also a possibility there was a tech guy in charge of distributing and renewing them,” Hannis said.
“Maybe he realized that there was no more activity on them and simply decided to start pocketing the money he was receiving.”
Hannis employed a similar tone to proffer an alternative explanation for why the “red network phones” were renewed in the northern city of Tripoli. “Perhaps the conspirator in charge of phone acquisition had a girlfriend in Tripoli, or a relative who sold phones in Tripoli and could give him a good deal,” he said.
While not meant seriously, Hannis said that his alternative explanations revealed that – barring concrete evidence – there was little the prosecution could do to narrow down the list of possible scenarios for the different kinds of activity evidenced by the phone data.
Platt pushed back against Hannis’ skepticism, asserting that his evidence made sense when considered in its totality. When referring to potential signs of coordination within the covert cell networks, Platt said: “In isolation, yes, you could say that this wasn’t necessarily a sign of organization, but when you look at it throughout time and on a consistent number of occasions, I would suggest that there is organization.”