Lebanese editor fined for revealing Hariri assassination witnesses

Lebanese editor fined for revealing Hariri assassination witnesses
2 min read
30 August, 2016
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon fined a Lebanese editor 20,000 euros ($22,300) for revealing the identities of witnesses in a case into former premier Rafiq Hariri's assassination.
The paper and its editor-in-chief were fined for contempt [AFP]

The editor of a Beirut-based newspaper was fined 20,000 euros ($22,000) on Monday by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) for publishing secret information about witnesses in the case against the alleged killers of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

The STL found Ibrahim al-Amin, the editor-in-chief of the al-Akhbar newspaper, guilty of contempt of court in July.

Amin and the pro-Hizballah al-Akhbar newspaper were convicted of contempt after running two articles in January 2013 with the names and photographs of 32 witnesses in its Arabic print and online editions.

The articles were entitled "STL Leaks: The Prosecution's Surprise Witnesses" and "The STL Witness List: Why We Published".

The STL was set up to investigate the assassination of Hariri, who along with 22 others - including a suspected suicide bomber - died in a massive car bomb blast on the Beirut waterfront on 14 February 2005.

The prosecutor, Kenneth Scott, on Monday urged the court, based just outside The Hague, to impose a two-year jail term on Amin and a $75,000 fine.

However, Judge Nicola Lettieri imposed a 20,000 euro ($22,300) fine on Amin and another 6,000 euro ($6,700) fine on the paper, to be paid in full by 30 September.

The prosecutor had also called for a fine of 112,700 euro ($126,000) to be imposed on the paper.

But defence counsel Antonios Abu Kasm argued that such a fine would end up "penalising the employees and their families, who will suffer direct financial consequences, given the already delicate financial situation" of the paper.

A defiant Amin rejected the court's decision on Tuesday as worthless, in a frontpage article in al-Akhbar titled: "Let them pave the sea", an Arabic expression used to show derision and contempt. 

Five suspected members of the powerful Lebanese Hizballah movement were originally indicted by the court, set up in 2009, and their trial in absentia opened in January 2014.

However, the court has quashed the case against one of the accused - Hizballah commander Mustafa Badreddine - who was killed in Syria in May.

Earlier this year the STL acquitted, on appeal, a senior Lebanese television journalist in a similar case involving the alleged publication of witness names in the highly-sensitive trial.

Hizballah's leader Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the tribunal as a US-Israeli plot, and vowed none of the defendants will ever be caught.

Agencies contributed to this report.