| 19 April 2024, Friday |

International Tribunal: Ayyash’s defense body does not have the legal capacity to appeal his conviction in absentia

The Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (“the Court”) decided by majority of its judges that the defense attorneys representing the accused convicted Salim Jamil Ayyash in absentia do not have the legal capacity to file an appeal against the judgment and by virtue of determining the punishment issued by the First Instance Chamber I in the Ayyash et al. Case (STL- 11-01).

Appeals Chamber judges reached this conclusion in a decision issued on March 29, 2021, based on the legal framework for procedures in absentia in court that does not include the possibility of the defense submitting an appeal in absentia. Ayyash did not appoint or accept his legal representation, and he is in hiding and has not been found. The arrest warrant issued against Ayyash remains unimplemented.

The convicted defendant, Ayyash, in his capacity as an individual, retains all the guarantees granted to him in accordance with international human rights standards, including the right to appeal the two judgments if he attends or requests a new trial.

The decision of the Appeals Chamber comes in response to the appeal filed by the defense lawyers representing Ayyash in absentia on January 12, 2021. The Appeals Chamber concluded that this appeal is not admissible.

The two dissenting opinions of Judge David Baragwanath and Judge Daniel Nsereko were attached to this decision.

The appeal phase will now continue in the Ayyash and others case, with the prosecution appealing the acquittal ruling of Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi.

Background information:
The Ayyash and others case relates to the attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, where  explosives in an amount equivalent to 2,500 to 3,000 kilograms of TNT equivalent were used , and it happened in broad daylight on February 14, 2005, in downtown Beirut. The blast killed 22 people, including the former prime minister, and injured 226 .

On August 18, 2020, First Instance Chamber I pronounced its judgment in the Ayyash and others case, and unanimously decided that Ayyash is guilty in a manner not tainted by any reasonable suspicion, as an accomplice to all the charges against him in the amended consolidated indictment. The judges found that Mari, Onisi, and Sabra were not guilty of all the charges against them in the indictment.

On December 11, 2020, the First Class I Chamber unanimously sentenced Ayyash to five life sentences that would be executed at the same time.

On January 12, 2021, the prosecution and Ayyash’s defense attorney filed two appeals requests for the judgment, and the defense and legal representatives of the affected participants also filed two appeals against the sentence

On February 24, 2021, the Appeals Chamber rejected the appeal filed by the legal representatives of those affected as inadmissible. However, it allowed those affected to participate in the appeals procedures for the purpose of expressing their opinions and concerns regarding matters affecting their personal interests, according to the central authority.