LEIDEN, Netherlands: The defense teams representing the Hezbollah-affiliated men accused of involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri are scheduled to begin their closing arguments Monday, after which only the final judgment will be left for the trial.
Emile Aoun, lead counsel for the defense for Salim Ayyash, is slated to begin first, followed by the defense teams for Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra and Hassan Merhi, respectively. As they are being tried as individuals rather than a group, each of the accused possesses his own team of attorneys at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
“Each counsel has their own views and strategies in how they believe their case should move forward,” Aoun previously told The Daily Star. Mohamed Aouini, lead counsel for Merhi, agreed, stating, “We are all [working] independently from one another.”
As the four accused are being tried in absentia for their alleged roles in the Feb. 14, 2005, assassination of the former prime minister, both sides’ arguments have centered on circumstantial evidence – especially the digital footprints left by cellphone records allegedly belonging to the accused.
The prosecution has argued these data trails point directly to Ayyash, Oneissi, Sabra and Merhi as the organizers and perpetrators of the bombing that left a crater in Downtown Beirut and killed 21 others in addition to Hariri.
As they have had no contact whatsoever with their clients – who have yet to be found by Lebanese authorities – the defense has depended on debunking the acceptability of the cellular records.
In some cases, the defense teams have argued that insufficient evidence has been presented linking their clients to a particular cellphone.
Other arguments have been made that the cellular records are not enough to pinpoint their user’s location and therefore their movements.
After the prosecution concluded its case in February, the Oneissi defense team filed for a “judgment of acquittal,” arguing that not enough evidence was presented linking their client to the crime.
“The prosecution has not proven that Mr. Oneissi had the intent to commit a crime against the state security, or that he knew that an act of terrorism was to be committed,” lead counsel Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse said at the time.