Leidschendam, 21 September 2018 – The closing arguments in the Prosecutor vs. Ayyash et al. case (STL 11-01) concluded today, after 9 hearing days. As Presiding Judge Re stated, the closing arguments “are an important part of trials conducted under international criminal law procedural rules (…) and allow the Prosecution and Defence to argue based on the entirety of the evidence before the Trial Chamber whether the Prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.” The Legal Representatives of Victims summarized the views and concerns of the victims in their closing arguments before the Trial Chamber. 17 victims participating in the proceedings followed the hearings of the closing arguments in the courtroom. The Judges will now withdraw to deliberate and will issue a judgement in due course.
The trial in the Ayyash et al. case opened before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on 16 January 2014. Since then, there have been 406 trial days. Currently, 72 victims are participating in the proceedings through their legal representatives. The Judges received the evidence of 307 witnesses. 269 were Prosecution witnesses, of whom 119 testified in the courtroom in the Netherlands or via video link from Beirut. The evidence of additional 150 witnesses was received in statement form, in accordance with the STL Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The Legal Representatives of Victims presented evidence of 31 witnesses, called 6 participating victims and a victimologist to testify. The Oneissi Defence presented the evidence of 6 witnesses, 2 live and 4 in written form. The Trial Chamber also called one witness for itself. The Trial Chamber received into evidence 3,131 documentary exhibits – 2,487 for the Prosecution, 599 for the four Accused and the former Accused, 45 from the Victims’ Legal Representatives and one admitted by the Chamber of its own volition. The exhibits total 144,928 pages.
The transcript of the 406 days of proceedings to date totals 35, 876 pages in English, 36,552 in French and 18,688 in Arabic. The final trial briefs filed by the Prosecution, Victims’ Legal Representatives and the Defence add up to over 1,400 pages of written substantive submissions with 31 annexes totalling in 1, 748 pages.
Background Information: The Ayyash et al. case relates to the 14 February 2005 attack which killed 22 individuals, including the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and injured 226 others. The indictment charges Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra with conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act. Mr. Ayyash is also charged with committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device, the intentional homicide of Mr. Hariri with premeditation using explosive materials, the intentional homicide of an additional 21 persons, with premeditation using explosive materials and with the attempted intentional homicide of 226 people with premeditation by using explosive materials. Mr. Merhi, Mr. Oneissi and Mr. Sabra are also charged with being accomplices to each of the four counts charged against Mr. Ayyash. All four Accused remain at large. The proceedings against them are being held in absentia.
Initially, Mustafa Amine Badreddine was charged in the indictment. However, on 11 July 2016, following reports of his death in May 2016, the Trial Chamber terminated the case against him pursuant to an order of the Appeals Chamber—rendered by the majority of the Appeals Chamber Judges - that Mr. Badreddine was deceased, but without prejudice to the right to resume the proceedings, should evidence that he is alive emerge in the future.
The trial began on 16 January 2014 with the opening statements by the Prosecutor, the Legal Representatives and the Defence counsel. The Prosecution then started the presentation of its case which ended on 7 February 2018. Evidence was called by the Trial Chamber at the request of victims participating in the proceedings case—interposed in the Prosecution case—between 28 August and 7 September 2017. The Trial Chamber also called one witness. Counsel for Mr. Oneissi elected to present a Defence case and called two witnesses who testified on 14 and 15 May, and 5, 6 and 7 June 2018, and tendered documents for admission into evidence. Counsel for Mr Oneissi closed their case on 28 June 2018. The Trial Chamber heard its witness on 25 and 26 June 2018. The Prosecutor and the Legal Representatives of Victims filed their final briefs on 16 July 2018 and the Defence teams for the four Accused on 13 August 2018.
The presentation of the closing arguments concludes the trial hearings in the Ayyash et al. case but is not a finding of guilt or innocence. The Judges have now withdrawn to deliberate and will issue a reasoned judgement that will find an accused "guilty" or "not guilty." A finding of guilt may be reached only when a majority of the Trial Chamber is satisfied that guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt (Rule 148). If a trial chamber finds an accused guilty it will subsequently decide on the sentence. Following the first instance judgement, appeals proceedings may be initiated before the STL Appeals Chamber.