Middle East

Lebanese journalist on trial for contempt at Hague

Karma Khayat Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Karma Khayat accuses the tribunal of attempting to silence criticism of its work

A Lebanese journalist has become the first defendant to take the stand at the UN-backed tribunal at The Hague investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Karma Khayat and her TV station are accused of obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors say they revealed details about key protected witnesses. The journalists deny any wrongdoing.

Five men accused of killing Mr Hariri remain in hiding, and are being tried by the tribunal in absentia.

Mr Hariri was killed along with 21 others when his motorcade was hit by a massive bomb blast in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 14 February 2005.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was set up by the United Nations to try those accused in connection with the killings. The five suspects still at large have been linked to the militant Shia Islamist movement, Hezbollah.

'Shooting the messenger'

On Thursday, prosecutors played footage from al-Jadeed and told the judge Ms Khayat and al-Jadeed had deliberately set out to reveal the identities of witnesses for the prosecution who had been promised anonymity.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The tribunal has been set up to investigate the killing of Mr Hariri in a huge bomb in Beirut in 2005

The journalists' defence lawyer Karim Khan accused the court of "shooting the messenger".

He said that the failures lay with the tribunal's inability to stop the leaks, rather than the journalists reporting that these leaks existed.

Ms Khayat says the list she published was redacted, which made it impossible to identify any witnesses. The full list of witnesses was later published by other parties, she asserts.

Ms Khayat accused the court of attempting to silence the Lebanese media "in order not to criticise the tribunal in future".

"I am there to defend freedom of speech and freedom of press," she told the BBC.

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