Focus on Ogero ongoing at STL

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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Ogero employees were questioned at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Tuesday as defense counselors worked to poke holes in the prosecution’s use of calling records. Both cellphone and landline data have been instrumental to the prosecution’s case against the five defendants accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Much of Tuesday’s session at the Tribunal based in The Hague was dedicated to questioning of witness PRH 709, who is a representative of the technical directorate at Lebanese state-run telecoms provider Ogero, by Dorothée Le Fraper du Hellen, representing the interests of the accused Hassan Merhi. Under questioning by Du Hellen, PRH 709 provided extensive descriptions of the process Ogero uses to capture and record call data. The witness also went to great pains to explain the differences in collection methods between landlines, payphones, mobiles, and prepaid cards. The witness noted that the operator of each individual “switch” – the location where call data is stored and recorded – is charged with setting their own time, and that this information is not synchronized across the Ogero network. This means that the timestamp attached to call records, according to PRH 709, is “linked to the clock of the building and the operator. Sometimes they are five minutes earlier or later [than other switch buildings].” Though it was not made explicit, Du Hellen insinuated that this might cast doubt on the prosecution’s case, which in many instances relies on precise correlations between the alleged movements of the conspirators and their calling activity in the lead up to the 2005 assassination. The session ended with a discussion of evidence to be presented by Gary Platt, an investigator at the Tribunal with expertise in covert cellular networks. According to representatives of the prosecution, Platt is preparing to deliver a presentation that will lay out all the prosecution’s evidence so far. According to the prosecution, the presentation is designed as a “visual snapshot,” of the relevant phone data and corresponding events. Though they claimed that the presentations provided no new evidence, members of various defense teams argued otherwise, noting that previous presentations made by the prosecution contained arguments and judgments that crossed ethical lines. This record, they noted, made the potential presentation of evidence by Platt unfair and unreasonable.

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