Defense counselor Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse questioned expert witness Gary Platt on the accuracy of cellphone coverage maps used during his stint as an investigator for the prosecution, throughout the Special Tribunal for Lebanon hearing Wednesday. Over the past two months, Platt has testified for the prosecution regarding cellphone records that the prosecution argues link the five defendants to the Feb. 14, 2005, assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, and 21 others.
Courcelle-Labrousse – representing Hussein Hassan Oneissi, one of the defendants – began his cross-examination by questioning the accuracy of the cellphone coverage maps that were foundational to Platt’s report, which linked the defendants to the crime.
Platt admitted that the coverage maps provided by telephone companies could not be confirmed to be 100 percent accurate, due to a number of factors.
He said cellphone coverage maps are generated by companies to predict customer coverage, but may not reflect the reality on the ground.
The accuracy of the maps depends on a number of factors, such as the lay of the land, or even the proximity to the sea. Alterations to landscapes, such as new buildings, and complicated topography, such as narrow streets, might also affect the accuracy of company coverage maps.
Courcelle-Labrousse pressed the issue, questioning Platt as to why he would use data that, in his own estimation, could be up to 30 or 40 percent inaccurate.
“I accept that the company-provided coverage maps are not 100-percent accurate, but they are the best available evidence,” Platt said.
He also stated he would have preferred to complete an updated, more accurate report, but that it was not within his power to make such a decision. An updated report was never completed.
In previous cases in the United Kingdom, Platt said, he would typically double-check the company-provided coverage maps against his own surveys of the area, hours or days after the crime. The interval of five years between the 2005 assassination and Platt’s 2010 arrival to the STL made such accurate cross-checking impossible.
During earlier cross-examination performed by defense counselor Mohamed Aouini – representing Hassan Habib Merhi, another one of the defendants – Platt emphasized that the cellphone activity should be looked at as if it were a large “jigsaw puzzle,” painting a plausible picture in totality but not containing any single phone call that could sew up the case.