Prosecution analyst Andrew Donaldson concluded his testimony on the “Purple 231” cellphone attributed to a defendant at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Monday, raising questions and objections from the defense counsel. As an investigator for the prosecution, Donaldson authored several attribution reports linking cellular devices allegedly used during the planning of the 2005 bombing in Downtown Beirut that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.
Monday, Donaldson detailed a furniture delivery to the residence of Hassan Habib Merhi in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a few months before the bombing, that contributed to his attribution of the phone to Merhi.
“The importance of the [delivery] is that ... we have documents purportedly signed by Merhi and [it] involved an order being delivered to his house,” Donaldson said, summarizing the event’s significance in his attribution report. “It would give us a sequence of events involving him [Merhi], and we see it also involve Purple 231 and Mobile 091,” he added.
Mobile 091 has been identified by investigations as a personal cellphone used mainly by Merhi’s wife. While evidence strongly suggests links to his family, the device was not a part of a group of mobile phones alleged by the prosecution to be related to the assassination plot.
Using phone records and witness statements, Donaldson established that a delivery was to be made on Nov. 24, 2004, but an order error lead to a second delivery on the Nov. 26. According to Donaldson, incoming calls from the driver to Mobile 091 on Nov. 26, using the “Barajneh 2 cell sector” indicated the drop-off of furniture at the Merhi residence.
An invoice obtained by the investigation was signed by Merhi on Nov. 26.
In his concluding remarks about Purple 231, Donaldson highlighted that cellular patterns mirrored that of phones allegedly used by defendants Salim Ayyash and Mustafa Badreddine. He added that there were several instances in which Lebanese MPs, officials and Hezbollah cadres had been in contact with devices attributed to all three men.
Defense counselors raised objections to Donaldson’s claims pertaining to Hezbollah.
“Donaldson is going beyond his expertise; I have never heard a comparison between Ayyash, Badreddine and Merhi. He is almost coming across as a phone expert in phone culture in Lebanon and of Hezbollah,” defense counselor Thomas Hannis contested.
“Can we learn from whom [Donaldson] learned that [the cellphone patterns] looked like a cadre profile. What does that even mean? Why isn’t that witness here?” Hannis added, requesting the identity of the individual providing Donaldson with information.
“I’m afraid he’s dead,” Donaldson replied, adding that the witness was a representative of the Lebanese authorities who passed away after their meeting.
Due to the circumstances, trial chamber president Judge David Re requested more information about the witness from senior prosecution counsel Alexander Milne to ascertain whether Donaldson was putting forth his own opinion, or in fact gathering it from a deceased individual.