Lebanese TV editor acquitted on appeal in Hariri case

AFP , Tuesday 8 Mar 2016

Karma Khayat
File Photo: Karma Khayat, the deputy director of a local TV station Al-Jadeed, laughs as she speaks on phone (AP)

A special court set up to try the killers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on Tuesday quashed on appeal the conviction of a senior TV journalist accused of obstructing justice.

Al-Jadeed television's deputy chief editor, Karma Khayat, had in September been cleared of one charge of contempt of court after her station published details of the witnesses in the highly-sensitive trial.

The television station had also been cleared of all accusations of contempt brought against it.

But Khayat was found guilty by the tribunal based in The Hague on a lesser charge of obstruction of justice for failing to remove the broadcast from the TV's website and social media as ordered.

On Tuesday, an appeals hearing agreed Khayat should also be acquitted of this charge.

It also dismissed an order that she pay a 10,000 euros ($11,000) fine and upheld the acquittal of the TV station, which the prosecution had sought to appeal.

The appeals court "reverses Ms Al Khayat's conviction ... for knowingly and wilfully 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 panel ruled.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was set up in 2007, and is the only international ad-hoc tribunal with the jurisdiction to try an act of terror.

It is specifically trying suspects charged with the murder of Hariri, killed with 22 others in a massive suicide car bombing on the Beirut waterfront on February 14, 2005.

Al-Jadeed -- which had been critical of Hariri -- broadcast five programmes in August 2012 on the alleged witnesses due to testify at the trial.

Five suspected members of the Iran-backed powerful Lebanese Shiite militia, Hezbollah, have been indicted by the court.

Their trial in absentia opened in January 2014, but despite international warrants for their arrest, the five are yet to appear in court.


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