The use of testimony given to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon by investigator Gary Platt sparked a heated head-to-head Tuesday as the defense team accused the prosecution of misusing his testimony. Prosecutor Nigel Povoas questioned Platt, who is an expert in covert cellular networks and has appeared numerous times at The Hague-based court, over cellular evidence critical to the case against two of the defendants, Salim Ayyash and Mustafa Badreddine. The pair are two of the five indicted for the 2005 Beirut assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
When Platt attempted to delve into phone calls made on the so-called purple network, lead defense counsel Mohamed Aouini, who represents Hassan Merhi, quickly interjected. Aouini accused the prosecution of going out of bounds by letting Platt testify on the “purple network,” which he said was not a covert network.
Cellular evidence has remained both a crucial and contentious aspect of the prosecution’s case against the five suspects. The prosecution has alleged that conspirators were organized into several phone networks coded by color into the “blue network,” “green network,” “red network” and “purple network.”
“The purple phones and associated purple phones are personal ones that do not fall into the category of criminal phones. Platt is not specialized in the analysis of the call types of purple and associated purple phones,” Aouini said. “He does not have the qualifications.”
While the blue, green and red networks have been delineated as “closed networks,” in which phone calls were only made within their own color network, the purple network is understood as “open” and allowed calls to “associated purple” phones of people not suspected of involvement.
Natalie von Wistinghausen, defense co-counsel representing Hussein Oneissi, then called for the purple network to be referred to as the purple group in future discussion. The fact that personal calls were made by the group members, she explained, disqualifies it from being classed as a covert network and therefore out of Platt’s specialty as an expert in covert networks.
“The purple phones are personal phones. They have been active since 2002. ... [Platt] can say there were calls between the phones, he can give his opinion but he cannot state what the phones [were doing],” Aouini said.
Thomas Hannis, defense co-counsel representing Ayyash, made a separate complaint that the prosecution hadn’t given the defense proper warning. “It’s not fair to have the prosecution dump these call records on us and say, ‘Here, this is what happened,’ without giving us the time to look at it,” he argued.
After a dispute between the prosecution and defense regarding Platt’s exact title and boundaries of responsibility, Judge David Re ultimately motioned in favor of the prosecution, stating that objections taken against Platt would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
The STL resumes Wednesday.