Contempt cases take centre stage at Lebanon tribunal

08 October 2014 by Karina Hof, The Hague (The Netherlands)

While prosecution witnesses continue to give technical forensic testimonies in the trial against five men suspected of orchestrating the 2005 explosion that killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, two contempt cases at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) vie for the spotlight.

STL Courtroom in The Hague. Copyright STL-TSL/Flickr

In each, a Lebanese journalist and the company employing the individual stand accused of publicizing names of alleged witnesses in the Ayyash et al. trial, which began in January. In a game-changing ruling last week, an appeals panel reversed an earlier decision to limit the court’s jurisdiction in contempt cases to “natural persons”, leaving the way open for prosecutors to go after news corporations.

At a 24 July hearing, Judge Nicola Lettieri confirmed charges of contempt and obstruction of justice against Karma Al-Khayat, the vice chair of Al-Jadeed TV, but stated that his interpretation of the STL’s jurisdiction was limited to “natural persons only”, thus blocking prosecution of the station’s parent company, New TV. 

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