Investigator Gary Platt’s testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Wednesday detailed the alleged process of selecting a site for the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Prompted by questioning from Prosecutor Nigel Povoas, Platt detailed a series of alleged movements in the Zouk Mosbeh area, north of Beirut. The area was on a route frequently used by Hariri and his security detail as they traveled to his villa in the Faraya area.
Though the area had been surveilled before, Platt said that on Jan. 28, 2005, “we see a more direct role being played by [phones attributed to Mustafa] Badreddine and [Salim] Ayyash” – two of the primary figures in the plot. “They are closer to the actual surveillance, rather than in south Beirut,” Platt said.
According to Platt, the call patterns bore a resemblance to a similar event on Jan. 18, when Badreddine and Ayyash allegedly met in the vicinity of the Parliament building in central Beirut – close to the scene of the attack.
“Usually, when we see [the two phones] converge, it’s in the Dahiyeh area [Beirut’s southern suburbs] or in south Beirut,” Platt said.
“The reason I see these instances as unique is that they’re different from that pattern.”
These, Platt explained, were the only two days in which Ayyash and Badreddine met outside of south Beirut and both were in areas directly connected to routes or locations frequented by Hariri.
Usually, the phones attributed to both Ayyash and Badreddine played what the prosecution has called a “coordinating” role.
But in this situation, Platt said, “these [phones] are directly active in the actual surveillance location.”
Platt coupled this pattern with a geographical understanding of Zouk Mosbeh in order to make the claim that the two individuals had been scoping the area as a possible site for the assassination.
“This junction in Zouk Mosbeh would have been a good place to do it,” he said, noting the layout of the roads and ease of concealing a potentially vehicle-borne explosive device.
Though he admitted to speculation, Platt said Ayyash and Badreddine may have visited the area to make a final decision about whether or not to plan the attack there.
“There’s been some work done and now you have two members of the executive group going to the scene in order to facilitate any decision they make,” he said. Testimony will continue Thursday.