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French Version

Full text of the 'censored paragraphs' of Mehlis report into Hariri assassination

Deleted sections name top syrian and lebanese officials

In common with many other media outlets, The Daily Star has obtained the "censored" paragraphs of Deltev Mehlis' report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the most important aspects were summarized in our edition of Saturday October 22.

The vast majority of changes, made between 11.38 a.m. and 2.59 p.m. on October 20 - the day the report was presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - are minor alterations of spelling or grammar. The time zone is not known but, given the explanation made by Detlev Mehlis himself on the changes and the different versions of the report, it seems likely that the times are local time New York.

Given also the ease with which it was technically possible to restore recent changes on the electronically released version, there is also speculation about whether the deletions were meant to be permanent.

Below are the most affected paragraphs of the report, with the restored deletions in italics.

(16) The Commission could not operate in a media vacuum, particularly in Lebanon. Certain Lebanese media had the unfortunate and constant tendency to spread rumors, nurture speculation, offer information as facts without prior checking and at times use materials obtained under dubious circumstances, from sources that had been briefed by the Commission, thereby creating distress and anxiety among the public at large and hindering the Commission's work when the focus should have been mostly on security issues. It has been the Commission's steadfast policy not to be drawn directly into a dialogue in the Lebanese media, avoiding any escalation and staying above any challenging or provocative statements. Both press conferences were aimed at countering such speculation and clarifying the status of the investigation. Inevitably, their effect was short-lived.

(17) To enhance transparency and broader cooperation, working with the judicial authorities entailed keeping the highest political authorities abreast of developments in the investigation, to the extent that such action did not call into question the independent nature of the Commission nor have a direct impact on the course of the investigation per se. However a number of Lebanese political figures added to the climate of insecurity and suspicion by leaking information to the press, or by revealing sensitive data without the prior consent of the Commission.

(96) One witness of Syrian origin but resident in Lebanon, who claims to have worked for the Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon, has stated that approximately two weeks after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559, Maher Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamil Al Sayyed [changed to 'senior Lebanese and Syrian officials'] decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri. He claimed that Sayyed [changed to 'a senior Lebanese security official'] went several times to Syria to plan the crime, meeting once at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus and several times at the Presidential Place and the office of Shawkat [changed to 'a senior Syrian security official]. The last meeting was held in the house of Shawkat [changed to 'the same senior Syrian security official'] approximately seven to 10 days before the assassination and included Mustapha Hamdan [changed to 'another senior Lebanese security official']. The witness had close contact with high ranked Syrian officers posted in Lebanon.

(125) Mr. Rafik Hariri's telephone lines were constantly under wire tapping. The measures were undertaken by the Army Intelligence in cooperation with representatives from the Surete Generale. The protocols were forwarded on daily basis to General Raymond Azar, General Michel Suleyman and General Jamil Al Sayyed. Mr. Azar also forwarded the protocols to the President of the Lebanese Republic and to the chief of the Syrian Intelligence Service, who was Ghazi Kanaan and then Rustum Ghazali. No documentation on this topic has been found during UNIIIC investigative measures. [This entire paragraph was deleted.]

(172) In a follow-up interview with UNIIIC, Ms. Moussa added that Mr. Abu Adass's best friend was a man by the name of Ziad Ramadan whom he had met as a colleague at the same [changed to 'at a'] computer company approximately two years earlier. She recalled that Ramadan was sent shortly before her son disappeared nearly every day from his work to Tripoli [sentence deleted]. The last contact she had with Mr. Ramadan was when he called her several days after her son disappeared to ask if she had any news from her son. In her interviews with the Lebanese authorities, Ms. Moussa stated that she had confirmed that her son did not have a driver's license and that there was no internet connection in their house.

(174) One individual whom neither UNIIIC nor the Lebanese authorities was able to interview so far was Khaled Midhat Taha, another religious associate of Mr. Abu Adass's, who is of significant interest, based on the travel records available for him and some unusual coincidences. Mr. Taha met Mr. Abu Adass when they were students at the Arab University where they used to meet in the University's mosque. According to travel records, Mr. Taha departed from Beirut International Airport for the United Arab Emirates on 21 July 2003 and returned to Beirut on 17 October 2003. The next record for him is an entry into Lebanon coming from Syria by land on 15 January 2005, the day before Mr. Abu Adass's disappearance. The next day, Mr. Taha left Lebanon by land towards Syria. The records do not show a departure from Lebanon prior to 15 January 2005, which indicates that he entered Syria prior to that date illegally. Further investigation revealed that three of Mr. Taha's e-mail addresses went through Damascus and the fourth went through Lebanon itself while purporting to be in Turkey. These factors suggest that he was in Syria but wanted to convince his parents that he was in Turkey [sentence deleted]. Moreover, the date of his final departure for Syria from Lebanon - 16 January 2005 - is the same as the date of Mr. Abu Adass's disappearance, suggesting a possible link between Mr. Taha's trip to Lebanon and Mr. Abu Adass's disappearance. Moreover, as the Lebanese authorities noted in their report, he was never arrested for his apparently illegal entry into Syria prior to 15 January 2005, even upon his return to Syria on 16 January 2005, an uncommon occurrence, suggesting that his departure and entry the following day were facilitated by someone. The Syrian authorities have recently been approached by UNIIIC to provide the Commission with detailed information on Khaled Taha, especially his travel records into and out of Syria.

(204) It is also the Commission's view that the context of the assassination of Mr. Hariri was one of extreme political polarization and tension. Accusations and counter accusations targeting mainly Mr. Hariri over the period preceding his assassination corroborate the Commission's conclusion that the likely motive of the assassination was political. However, since the crime was not the work of individuals but rather of a sophisticated group, it very much seems that fraud, corruption, and money-laundering possibly involving Bank al Madina [phrase deleted] could also have been motives for individuals to participate in the operation.

(206) It is the Commission's conclusion that the continuing investigation should be carried forward by the appropriate Lebanese judicial and security authorities, who have proved during the investigation that with international assistance and support, they can move ahead and at times take the lead in an effective and professional manner. At the same time, the Lebanese authorities should look into all the case's ramifications including bank transactions through Bank al Madina [phrase deleted]. The 14 February explosion needs to be assessed clearly against the sequence of explosions which preceded and followed it, since there could be links between some, if not all, of them.

Beirut 24-10-2005
The Daily Star

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