STL Hearing for Lebanese Journalists Opens amid Not Guilty Pleas

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An initial hearing for Lebanese journalists and their media organizations on charges of contempt was held on Tuesday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon headquarters in The Hague.

The STL said via twitter that the purpose of the initial appearance is for the judge to ensure that the rights of the accused and the right to be represented by counsel are respected.

“This follows the issuing of summons to appear or the execution of an arrest warrant against an individual charged of crimes before the STL,” it said.

Al-Jadeed TV Director General Dmitry Khodr and Karma al-Khayat, the deputy head of news at the station, entered pleas of not guilty.

“I came here to defend my rights under your laws,” Karma told the court.

She said her only crime was the “respect” for her profession and the “highlighting of the court’s mistakes.”

But al-Akhbar newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin announced that he will not appear before the STL.

The two journalists and their media organizations New TV S.A.L. and Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. were charged with contempt before the tribunal after they disclosed details of alleged STL witnesses.

British Karim Khan is the counsel for New TV S.A.L and al-Khayat, who are charged with “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by broadcasting and/or publishing information on purported confidential witnesses” and “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by failing to remove from al-Jadeed TV’s website and al-Jadeed TV’s YouTube channel information on purported confidential witnesses.”

The counsel stated at the hearing that there is no conflict of interest in representing both NEW TV S.A.L and Khayat.

Khan indicated that al-Jadeed’s Defense will challenge the jurisdiction with respect to the charges against the corporation.

Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri gave al-Jadeed until June 16 to file preliminary motions.

Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. and al-Amin are charged with “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by publishing information on purported confidential witnesses in the Ayyash et al. Case.”

Al-Amin was scheduled to appear at 4:30 pm Beirut time before Lettieri. But he said the court failed to address the newspaper’s request to postpone the hearing.

Meanwhile, journalists held a solidarity meeting at the Press Syndicate headquarters in Beirut after the hearing opened in The Hague.

Al-Amin said at the meeting that his presence in the Hague is not important because the STL did not give him “guarantees.”

The STL has indicted five Hizbullah members for involvement in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s Feb. 2005 assassination.

The Trial Chamber on Monday ordered the resumption of trial of the accused on June 18.

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