Defense counselor Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse pressed the issue of gaps in cellphone data Thursday while cross-examining expert witness Gary Platt at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Over the past two months, Platt has given evidence for the prosecution regarding cellphone records that form the basis of the prosecution’s case against the five defendants accused of orchestrating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005.
Courcelle-Labrousse – representing the interests of defendant Hussein Hassan Oneissi – questioned Platt extensively about cellphone activity from a particular area in Beirut’s southern suburbs, referred to as “Cola” or “Cola activity,” in their presentation of evidence. Ahmad Abu Adass, who was depicted in a video where he confessed to the bombing that was later determined to be a false claim, is known to have lived in this area.
In cross-examination it emerged that Platt himself had spent very little time in these particular areas. When Courcelle-Labrousse presented him with an aerial view of the neighborhoods around Cola, Platt was unable to identify Tariq al-Jadideh, Mar Elias, Mazraa, or the Cola intersection. He incorrectly marked the Cola intersection twice.
Platt said he had never walked these areas by foot, but had driven past the neighborhoods twice in a car, in 2010 and 2014. Platt would typically conduct cellphone coverage surveys on foot, he said, but for security reasons he was not allowed to do so in this case.
The judges appeared confused as to what “Cola” referred to. “Is it an intersection? A fly-over? Should we write Cola Bridge?” Trial Chamber President Judge David Re queried, as the court attempted to create a key for the aerial shot of the southern suburb.
Courcelle-Labrousse identified a lack of cellphone data prior to August 2004, stating that without the missing data, Platt couldn’t accurately determine the habits of the defendants. “If you don’t have exhaustive data for an entire year, your data is only good for five months,” he said. “You don’t have any data for the preceding period.”
“When we talk about Cola activity, we’re talking about sustained activity over a period of time,” the witness countered.
Platt has consistently suggested that the cellphone data should be considered in its totality, rather than arguing that any single phone call makes the case for the prosecution.