Lebanese TV station cleared of contempt in Hariri case

Lebanese TV station cleared of contempt in Hariri case
Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon cleared al-Jadeed television, after the channel had been accused of publishing details of witnesses in the Hariri trial.
2 min read
18 September, 2015
Karma Khayat (R) was cleared of contempt but found guilty of obstruction of justice [AFP].
A Lebanese television station was on Friday cleared of charges of contempt for publishing details of witnesses in the trial of the alleged killers of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon also cleared al-Jadeed television's deputy chief editor, Karma Khayat, of one charge of contempt, but found her guilty of obstruction of justice for failing to remove the broadcast from the TV's website and social media as ordered.

The prosecutor "has not proved that... al-Jadeed committed a criminal act," presiding judge Nicola Lettieri told the hearing at the tribunal's fortress-like building, located in a leafy suburb.

However Khayat herself "was at least wilfully blind to the (court's) order," to remove the broadcasts from the station's website as well as from the YouTube social media video channel.

Khayat's al-Jadeed station - which had been critical of Hariri - broadcast five programmes in August 2012 on alleged witnesses due to testify at the trial.

The prosecutor had later alleged "11 witnesses were approached".

A judge the same month ordered Khayat and her station to take down the broadcasts.

The witnesses' faces were hidden and names were not mentioned, but "nobody was fooled" as to whom their identities may be, prosecutors told the judge during the trial.

Khayat faces a maximum seven-year prison sentence, and/or a fine of up to 100,000 euros ($106,000) and had denied the charges.

Set up in 2007, the court is the only international ad hoc tribunal with the jurisdiction to try an act of terror, specifically dealing with Hariri's death.

Hariri and 22 others, including a suspected suicide bomber, died in a massive car bomb blast on the Beirut waterfront on February 14, 2005.

Five suspected members of the powerful Shia movement Hizballah have been indicted by the court and their trial in absentia opened in January 2014 last year. Despite international warrants, the five are yet to appear in court.