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Wikileaks: Unlimited Bellemare Dependency on US Intelligence

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Siraj Kobeissy

The chapters of US intelligence cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) into the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri are revealed day after day, where more "secret cables" sent from US ambassadors in Lebanon to the US Foreign Ministry in Washington are uncovered.

After the STL General Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare begged for the US intelligence's support in the investigation process, the Wikileaks cables published by Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper on Saturday revealed the full US support to the STL. The cables also revealed the US attempt to exert every effort in order to respond to the investigation committee's demands related to the information and support, according to what Chief of US mission to Beirut William Grant said.

Furthermore, the cables also revealed the Lebanese-international conspiracy regarding the arbitrary arrest of the four officers, despite the lack of evidence to convict them of the crime on one hand, and on another hand, Bellemare's attempt to choose the Deputy General Prosecutor himself in January 2008.

According to cable numbered 08BEIRUT166, issued on February 4, 2008 and classified by Chief of US mission in Lebanon William Grant, Bellemare, instead of spending time writing detailed demands about information related to specific events, he planned inclusive "regulations" for wide ranged assistances which Member States can choose from. These regulations are provided by the Member States' Embassies in Beirut. Therefore, the international committee will prepare formal-like demands, where each demand would meet each state's capabilities and interests. This way, Bellemare explained that not one state can deny the submission of information under the pretext that the international committee did not request it. Moreover, the aforementioned will lead to the international commission of inquiry's possessing of information which it will not reach through any other means; information that may contribute in "linking threads with each other". Bellemare further added, "We are trying to find ways to help you in approving and cooperating".

5 __ Bellemare also suggested, "Minor Member States may contribute in the completion of interviews with the witnesses". The investigation commission wanted the Member States to provide it with experts working on the field, especially to analyze telecommunications [phone calls]. Throughout their work in Lebanon, those experts might benefit from their interaction with the investigation committee's team, and they might be able to dive in the investigation, and therefore helping them in understanding the overall image in a clearer way.
(Note: We will send the overall request of Bellemare, which is related to the support and the experts' job description, to the Office of Near Eastern Affairs/ Office of Egypt and the Levant Affairs. End Note)

Comment:
(...)
14__ Furthermore, his role as General Prosecutor in charge, clearly draws the way of tackling the investigations. We give him an "excellence" preliminary assessment for his effort and determination, and we urge Washington to exert every effort to respond to the investigation committee's request related to the information and support. End Comment"

On another hand, the cable labeled: 08BEIRUT134 issued on 15 September 2008, and classified by US Ambassador Michele Sisson, reveals General Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare's three requests from the Ambassador on 12 September, requesting the US administration's assistance. First, Bellemare requested that the US government provides him with the intelligence information the committee requested officially. Second, he requested that the US government provides the committee with temporary criminal investigators; since the committee needs investigators capable of investigating witnesses, to question some 200 imprisoned people. Third, he requested the US government to urge the British government to present extra assistance to the committee, especially concerning intelligence information (the British government provided the investigation committee with a temporary team.

2. In addition to that, Bellemare asked the US government for help when the Administrative Board reviewed the STL budget on September 25, (at the same time when Lebanese President Michele Suleiman will be meeting with President Bush in Washington). Finally, Bellemare reaffirmed his appeal to meet his previous requests to know whether or not the US government had any answer regarding 26 pictorial drawings of suspects, which were sent by the committee to the US government. The committee also requested some information about alleged Hizbullah dissidents who were said to be living in the US.

As for the cable number 09BEIRUT109 issued on January 27, 2009 from US Ambassador Michele Sisson, Bellemare stressed on his need to information from the US to help him conduct his finalizing investigations in Syria, under Chapter 7. Bellemare also raised the issue concerning the internal system of the US administration, which consumes most of his time. End of Abstract.

When Will the Four Officers be Released?

2. On January 26, the Ambassador, accompanied with the legal attaché, and a political diplomatic figure, met with the STL General Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare in Monteverdi. Bellemare clarified that the STL has 60 days starting 1 March to raise a request to the Lebanese government to transfer the four arrested officers to The Hague. Bellemare, who strictly stressed that he had "no comment" regarding a possibility to raise a lawsuit against the officers, referred to the absence of a specific time period, from the date of transfer request, during which the transfer is required.

3. Bellemare affirmed that he doubted Lebanon's General Prosecutor Saeed Mirza's desire to transfer the officers to the court's custody. Bellemare added that at the time when no one can specify for the court the period during which the officers will stay in custody, in reference to Bellemare's ability to arrest them forever in The Hague, however Bellemare refuses to conduct such a step, because he fears he would be subject to legal pressure (from the court itself) to immediately release them in case no lawsuit was filed against them.
Bellemare reaffirmed that it is not possible for the officers to be released on bail (according to the Lebanese Penal Code, Article 108). If that so happened, Bellemare said that the Lebanese government can have them under surveillance.

4. Bellemare referred to the Dutch government's fear of a request by the officers for political asylum, in case the STL released them. Furthermore, it was feared that former Director General of Lebanon's General Security Jamil As-Sayyed would run for parliamentary elections, an attempt without doubt supported by opposition Leader Suleiman Franjiyeh and Hizbullah.
Moreover, Bellemare expressed his fears from the risk of transferring the four officers, stating that Hizbullah does not want the officers outside Lebanon. Coordination for their transfer is being held with the Lebanese authorities, which according to Bellemare's claims, would have this operation subject to danger because of Hizbullah's breach in these authorizes.

Bellemare adviced that if the Lebanese government decided to release the four officers, then it should separate the timeline as much possible, between their release and the parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on the seventh of June 2009. (Note: We support this view. End Note)

If Assistance is Available... Present it Now

Hinting at his return to Syria in February for the last time under chapter 7, Bellemare insisted on the importance of receiving information from the US to be used during the interrogations. He appealed saying, "If assistance is available, present it now". He specifically requested information about "human weak points, suggestions about questions he might ask, the people unmentioned in the lists, and biased answers that could be used to test the interrogated and lure them". Bellemare explained that the interrogation his advisors will conduct during their journey to Syria will be "very different from that of previous visits, but I need ammunition to do the interrogations".
(...)

Worried About STL Judges' Safety

8. Daniel Bellemare stated that the four Lebanese judges, out of the 11 overall, chose to go back and forth between Lebanon and The Hague. Referring to the security situation, Bellemare expressed skepticism regarding the judges' condition to accept the position in return for maintaining their freedom of movement. (Comment: An Embassy member mentioned that he identified one of the judges because the number of internal security forces soldiers increased around his place of residence. End Comment)

Dilemma of Appointing Deputy General Prosecutor

9. According to Bellemare, the issue of appointing a Deputy General Prosecutor has turned into a dilemma. He reported that he met many of the candidates for this position in January 2008, adding that the UN office of Legal Affairs will be handing its secret recommendation to the Council of Ministers, which will appoint this person.
He expected that Council of Ministers might discuss this issue before the deadline on March 1, yet he was informed that then majority leader Saad Hariri was not content with the recommendation, where he considered that the candidate is "very independent", and he might request his ministers in the Future Movement to abort the appointing order.

10. STL General Prosecutor referred to that Lebanese Prosecutor Saeed Mirza, who shares a close relation with Saad Hariri, had approved the recommendation. Bellemare stated that he is capable of launching the work without a deputy. However, the deputy's appointment without any delay has a symbolic importance, for this position will be filled by Lebanese personnel.

11. Bellemare fears the side which will gain the right to VETO, if the ministers were appointed in the positions that he expects. Daniel Bellemare wondered if the government would be able to stop the Lebanese government's funding of the STL, despite its duties interpreted in the international agreement (...).

Another Cable: Brammertz Concerned of the Quality of Evidences Upon Which the Four Officers were Held

On another hand, in the cable number 06BEIRUT1417 issued on May 5, 2006 by Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, Brammertz expressed, as in previous meetings with the Embassy's officials, his concerns regarding the quality of evidences used to issue the arrest warrant of the four Lebanese generals. However he stressed that raising this issue does not necessary have to mean that those suspects are not involved in the crime committed.

Brammertz noted that Lebanon's General Proseecutor Saeed Mirza's unease feeling is growing because of extending the detention period of the four generals, and Mirza hinted to Brammertz that he would like more guidance from the committee. Brammertz told Mirza that the investigation committee cannot give recommendations, and that the responsibility lies upon the Lebanese judicial system in order to specify whether their arrest and detention were based on enough evidences. Brammertz told the Ambassador that despite the lack of evidences convicting the generals, yet that would not invalidate the recommendations of his predecessor, Detlev Mehlis (...).

Meeting with Bashar al-Assad

4__ Regarding his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa last week, Brammertz described both leaders as "relatively cooperative". However he confirmed that both meetings were not aiming at interrogating them (...). Brammertz said that he was surprised to know that Syrian President al-Assad is a good speaker, who has a good level in English, and that he has only one advisor (...).

Requesting More Support

14. Request for implementation: Head of the investigation commission Brammertz wondered whether he could meet with representatives of the US Department of Justice when he arrives in New York next week. He expressed home he would discuss with them issues related to the witness protection program, and regarding additional requests about information that the US government might be able to provide. Brammertz will stay in New York on the 9th and 10th of May, and he most probably might stay some more days. The US Embassy in Beirut asks the Legal Consular's office, or any other specialized offices, to specify whether this meeting could be held or not.

As for the cable labeled 06BEIRUT3014, issued on September 18, 2006, classified to be from Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, it revealed that Brammertz expressed his joy to admit that the international investigation committee is "shutting doors" on some issues, including the issue of Bank al-Madina. Since the issue of Bank al-Madina affects many of the Syrian and Lebanese officials, the committee is looking for evidences related only to the case of Rafik Hariri's assassination.

6__ Brammertz announced that he hasn't achieved any progress in the invstigation regarding the four general, and that the lack of hard evidences to convict Jamil As-Sayyed, according to Brammertz, does not mean that he is not involved or informed of the assassination. He mentioned that Samir Shahdeh, who was targeted in a car bomb on September 5, is not related whatsoever to the current investigation committee, which pushed Brammertz into thinking that the attempt to assassinate him comes of personal avenge, or by al-Qaida affiliation, or some Palestinian organization (...).
Feltman


Source: Al-Akhbar Lebanese Newspaper

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