Testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Monday further discussed how patterns of telecoms data demonstrated surveillance of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Gary Platt, an expert in covert cellular networks, focused on phone calls made between Feb. 4 and Feb. 7, 2005, just days before Hariri and 21 others were assassinated on Feb. 14, in an explosion in Beirut. Platt, prompted by questioning from Prosecutor Nigel Povoas, detailed a series of alleged phone call movements between areas that Hariri frequented, despite the fact that Hariri was on his way to the airport. Platt contended that the increase in the number of phone calls made around the time suggested that those following Hariri had not expected him to go to the airport.
“This was a Friday. So maybe they were thinking that he would go to his villa but he went to the airport,” Platt said, supporting claims that his everyday activities were being closely monitored.
Prompted by Judge Micheline Braidy, Platt confirmed that unknown so-called “Subject 6” remained in direct control of these operations and the direct movement of these calls. Subject 6 is an unattributed cellphone that is said to have had a prominent coordination role.
Evidence from cellular data and cell site analysis has formed the foundation of the prosecution’s case against the five defendants being tried in absentia. The prosecution has color coded the four covert cellular networks to denote their alleged role in the conspiracy.
Hariri subsequently spent two days in Bahrain and during that time, the number of calls from the “blue group” of phones dropped significantly from 45 on Feb. 4, to just nine on Feb. 5 and six on Feb.6, increasing again when Hariri returned to Lebanon.
“After two days of inactivity, on this day [Feb. 7], there were 79 calls. You see the volume increase. He’d not been there and this had resulted in a dormant period and then there is a burst of activity coinciding with the fact he was arriving [in Lebanon].”
This, Platt said, gave additional evidence that these calls were closely monitoring Hariri’s movements. “We see continuous surveillance in areas related to Mr. Hariri,” he said referring back to the blue phones.
Platt was also able to trace back one of these calls to the phone attributed to Salim Ayyash who would have been located in central Beirut. “This is unusual activity. This is 10 days before the activity on Feb. 14, when we see Ayyash located again in this area,” Platt said.
Defense counselor Thomas Hannis, representing the interests of Salim Ayyash, frequently objected to Prosecutor Povoas’ questioning of Platt. The questions, he argued, were outside the parameters of Platt’s expertise and would result in speculative answers.
For the first time in months, a new witness was brought in to testify during the day’s second session. Audio recordings of an interview between an unnamed witness and STL investigators were played to the court in a closed session. No other details were given about the content of the recordings or how they pertain to the case.