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Lebanese editor fined for Hariri court contempt

The pro-Hezbollah newspaper ran two articles in January 2013 with the names and photographs of 32 witnesses

Published: Updated:

A special court on Monday fined the editor of a Beirut-based newspaper $22,000 (20,000 euros) for publishing secret information about witnesses in the case against the alleged killers of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

Ibrahim al-Amin, the editor-in-chief of the Al-Akhbar newspaper, was found guilty in July of contempt of court by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The prosecutor on Monday urged the court, based in the leafy town of Leidschendam just outside The Hague, to impose a two-year jail term on Amin and a $75,000 fine.

Amin and the pro-Hezbollah 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'.

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

“I sentence M. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali Al-Amin to a fine of 20,000 euros, to be paid in full by 30 September, 2016,” said judge Nicola Lettieri.

He also imposed “a fine of 6,000 thousand euros to be paid in full by 30 September, 2016” on the paper.

The prosecutor Kenneth Scott had also called for a fine of 112,700 euros to be imposed on the paper.

Defence plea

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.

Five suspected members of the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah 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, Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, who is believed to have died in fighting 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.

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