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STL defense says conditions not satisfactory to begin trial.

Summary: Conditions are "not at all satisfactory" to commence trial in January, defense counsel for Mustafa Badreddine told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon trial chamber as it convened its first pretrial conference Tuesday.

BEIRUT: Conditions are "not at all satisfactory" to commence trial in January, defense counsel for Mustafa Badreddine told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon trial chamber as it convened its first pretrial conference Tuesday.

Badreddine's lawyers cited persistent lack of cooperation from Lebanese authorities atop its list of factors negatively impacting trial preparedness.

"We have been confronting difficulties in obtaining cooperation from the Lebanese authorities," defense counsel Antoine Korkmaz told the hearing, explaining that repeated requests for information and cooperation over recent months had received no response.

Badreddine is one of five men accused of orchestrating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in a massive suicide car bomb in central Beirut.

All five accused remain at large. Indicted in 2011, Badreddine and three others are due to be tried in absentia on Jan. 13, 2014. Trial arrangements for the fifth accused, Hasan Habib Merhi, who was indicted earlier this month, have not been finalized.

Badreddine's lawyer also listed the huge body of evidence disclosed by the prosecution over the summer months as an impediment to its ability to be ready for next year's trial.

Defense counsel for Hussein Hasan Oneissi, another of the five, also raised concerns about processing the large amount of evidence disclosed by the prosecution, saying it had received "1 million pages" of documents.

Counsel for Assad Hasan Sabra, also one of the accused, for its part noted the number of outstanding filings, requesting a stay of trial proceedings.

STL Pretrial Judge Daniel Fransen has once already delayed the trial, which was originally due to start on March 25, 2012. A new tentative start date of Jan. 13, 2014, was set in July.

Tuesday's hearing convened a day after the court announced the transfer of the case file to its trial chamber, ostensibly marking progress in an investigation now almost nine years old.

But the defense counsel's repeatedly requests to delay trial, place in doubt how much momentum proceedings are likely to gain.

David Re, the presiding judge at Tuesday's hearing, indicated that it remained the trial chamber's intention to commence proceedings on Jan. 13, but acknowledged the defense's requests to delay the start date, saying these filings would be addressed.

During the hearing, the defense also touched on adding the case of Merhi to that of the other four, saying that such a move would also impact upon the start date.

The office of the prosecutor responded that it would make a decision about the fifth suspect in due course.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Oct 30, 2013
Words:468
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