Thursday, 23 October 2014

Sources to Al-Akhbar: Not enough evidence found in al-Hassan case to implicate Hezbollah

Wissam al-Hassan, the former head of the ISF's Information Branch, was killed in a massive car-bomb explosion in Beirut's Achrafieh neighborhood on October 19, 2012. (Photo: Marwan Bou Haidar)
Published Wednesday, October 22, 2014
During an event commemorating the two year anniversary of the assassination of the former head of the Internal Security Forces' (ISF) controversial Information Branch, Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk declared Saturday that the investigation into Hassan’s assassination was “close to an end.” However, leaked information from the highly-secretive investigation shows that further evidence is still needed if the results are to match the accusations adopted by a certain political faction.
What did Machnouk mean when he said that the investigators are on the verge of finding the “truth” behind the assassination? And what did he mean when he said that the Information Branch has the picture but lacks the sound?
Machnouk and the March 14 coalition believe, without the slightest doubt, that Hezbollah is behind Hassan’s assassination. In their opinion, Hezbollah killed Hassan and the Future Movement will determine when is the “appropriate” time, according to local and regional circumstances, for this “truth” to be revealed.
Machnouk directed his speech towards the family members of both Hassan and his bodyguard and driver, Ahmed Sahyouni, who was also killed in the assassination, which implies that his talk about the investigation being “close to an end” is solely to reassure and console the two families.
Security-wise, the investigation, which has been ongoing for two years, is surrounded by a level of secrecy unprecedented since 2005. A very restricted number of people are involved in the investigation and they report exclusively to the head of ISF’s Information Branch, Imad Othman.
Sources close to the case told Al-Akhbarthat the investigation still needs more evidence and proof in order for the results to match the accusations made by the March 14 coalition.
The limited information leaked from the investigation has lead to the following conclusions:
1-The investigators were not able to trace cell phones or landlines used by the perpetrators to surveil Hassan up until the day of his assassination.
2-The investigators from the Information Branch created an investigative program, similar to that used to search cell phone data, and applied it to security cameras. Footage from hundreds of surveillance cameras were collected from the crime scene in Ashrafieh and its surrounding areas, up until the northern, eastern, and southern entrances of Beirut. The content was then analyzed in order to locate cars and people suspected of being involved in the crime.
3- The analysis of the security cameras’ contents revealed that the car (a 4x4 Toyota), which was used in the assassination, had been parked in the same spot it that it was detonated in a few days before the assassination, meaning that the assassination was not scheduled on October 19, 2012, but a couple of days earlier.
However, Hassan, did not take Ibrahim al-Mounzer Street where the car was initially parked, forcing the perpetrators to change the date of the assassination and relocate the car until October 19. Meanwhile, they used a Volkswagen Golf to reserve the exact same parking spot.
Further investigation revealed that Hassan was not even in Lebanon on the day the perpetrators originally chose to carry out the assassination, which shows that the perpetrators were not fully aware of Hassan’s movements, including his flights outside of the country.
4- The perpetrators used more than 10 cars to monitor Hassan and the area he lived in, which is a significant number in comparison to any other surveillance operations.
5- By going through the security camera recordings, the investigators were able to spot 10 suspects and take relatively close pictures of some of them. However, the images taken were not sufficient to identify any of the suspects.
The investigators were taken back by the fact that the perpetrators moved freely in the Achrafieh neighborhood of Beirut, with some of them acting in a manner that implied that they lived or worked in the area. Moreover, nothing about the perpetrators’ appearances helped in profiling the group behind the assassination.
6- The investigators still don’t know how the perpetrators knew specifically which car Hassan was in when he left the “secret apartment,” as no hidden security cameras were found in the parking lot of the apartment’s building.
The investigators doubt that the perpetrators had access to high-tech devices that could track Hassan’s whereabouts through his mobile phone because such devices deactivate the cell phone being monitored while Hassan’s phone was on when he came out of his apartment and up until he was assassinated. (Hassan was on the phone with a journalist who runs a newspaper in the Gulf region when he was assassinated.)
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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