Testimony from covert cellular network expert Gary Platt at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Wednesday detailed key moments in the lead-up to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri based on Platt’s investigation of cellphone records. Cellular data have been central to the prosecution’s case against the five defendants being tried in absentia, their respective roles in the attack and preceding conspiracy.
Thus far, Platt’s testimony has sought to track the alleged movements of different suspects, as well as the command and the control structure of the planning process.
The prosecution has color-coded the covert cellular networks investigations identified into “blue,” “green,” “red,” and “purple” groups. Each network was supposedly responsible for a different component of the plot that led to the Feb. 14, 2005, bombing that killed the former premier and 21 others.
Platt’s testimony Wednesday followed on from his appearance the day before and focused primarily on the middle and end of the so-called “Cola Phase,” as well as the “activation” and initial movements of the red network that the prosecution claims was assigned to carry out the attack itself. The “Cola Phase” was used by the prosecution to denote the period in which two defendants, Assad Sabra and Hussein Oneissi, allegedly recruited a 22-year-old Palestinian man named Ahmad Abu Adass to fake a video claiming responsibility for the assassination.
By Platt’s account, this period of time between Jan. 4 and 7, 2005, played a critical role in the planning of the assassination. “Both sides of the operation, the mission team and those responsible for the false claim of responsibility, are both in full flow,” he said. “It’s a pivotal moment in the operation.”
According to the prosecution, the purple network also ceased communicating soon after this date, with only one call placed after Jan. 7. Prosecutor Nigel Povoas made the claim that this was because the network had already identified Abu Adass and no longer needed to coordinate.
During Wednesday’s testimony, Platt also testified on the use and activation of the red network. The witness explained that although the handsets for the red phones had been purchased earlier, it wasn’t until Jan. 4 that they were actually activated. Call records during this period also demonstrated an increased level of coordination between red and yellow phones.
“Activating phones would require a decision,” he said. “It illustrates coordination and also involvement by other networks, in the purchase of the red phones and contact with significant subjects back in Beirut.”
Platt testified that an unnamed “Subject 6” appeared to play a key role in this coordination effort, having been in consistent contact with two of the defendants, Salim Ayyash and Mustafa Badreddine, just prior to the network’s activation.