STL single-user theory has holes, but still sound: witness

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Special Tribunal for Lebanon

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On his final day of answering prosecutors’ questions at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, expert witness John Edward Philips again traced the appearance of anomalies in the “single-user analysis” theory. In doing so he pointed out cases in which calls were placed between several phones attributed to the same individual. The single-user theory proposed by the prosecution suggests that phones linked to the planning of the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others did not necessarily each have distinct, separate users but a group of handsets were used by each of the suspected conspirators. Having provided evidence to back up the single-user theory in previous appearances, Philips Monday reviewed instances that might challenge the theory. One example the expert witness presented was an instance that occurred on Jan. 28, 2005, in which two phones attributed to Salim Ayyash, one of five indicted suspects in the trial, were used to communicate with each other. Using a map, Philips showed data of two personal mobile phones attributed to Ayyash – “091” and “170” – moving away from one another. While Phone 091 remained near Beirut airport, Phone 170 was moving north from Beirut’s southern suburbs toward the Zouk Mosbeh area, about 12 km north of the capital. During the period in which the two phones were located in different regions, two phone calls were made between the devices. “This is the first time we see contact between these two phones,” Philips said, highlighting a potential anomaly in the single-user theory. Philips answered frankly when prosecutor Marc Desalliers asked what the irregularity implied. “Well, it’s pretty obvious that two people were using the phone,” he said. He then added, “It would appear that for a period of the day, one of the phones was given to someone else, while the other stayed at the airport. So there has to be two [people]. ... Since there are two calls [between the phones], information is being passed between them.” As direct examination of Philips wound down in the afternoon session, Desalliers questioned the witness as to whether the number of anomalies should be considered “significant,” from his informed perspective. Judge Janet Nosworthy asked if Philips could provide a “percentage” value to illustrate the margin of error. Despite a series of objections from the defense at this line of questioning, the expert witness answered these queries. “I will not give a figure ... [but as] for Subject 1 and 2 [Ayyash and Mustafa Badreddine], there are a lot of examples, and lots of varied examples, [that support the single-user theory].” Defense counselor Chad Mair brought Monday’s session of the STL to a close by beginning her cross-examination. She will continue her questioning Tuesday.

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