Hague prosecutor demands prison, fine for Lebanese journalist

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2015 7:09 AM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A journalist who ignored a court order to take down videos that risked exposing the identities of witnesses in the case of Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri's murder should serve a year in prison, a Hague prosecutor said on Monday.

Television reporter Karma al-Khayat was convicted of contempt of court 10 days ago for ignoring a court order to take down video interviews with witnesses, exposing them to danger and undermining confidence in the court.

The reporter had shown "no remorse or regret", and should also pay a 100,000-euro ($112,000) fine, prosecutor Slobodan Zecevic told a sentencing hearing at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Monday.

Khayat, who is not under detention, was acquitted of the separate crime of publishing material that exposed witnesses, but Zecevic said that the gravity of the crime, made all the worse by the "tense security situation in Lebanon" merited a jail term.

Her defense lawyer Karim Khan said the single remaining conviction standing against her was a "lesser" offense.

"Stripped down of the hyperbole, what this case comes down to is a single finding of willful blindness to a court order," he said.

Khayat, who was not in court, has described her conviction as an attack on the free press. A judge was due to sentence her later on Monday.

Hariri and 21 others were killed in a waterfront bomb blast in 2005 that upset a fragile peace in Lebanon, dragging the country back to the brink of civil war.

Five suspects, all linked to the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militant movement Hezbollah, which is part of the current Beirut government, have since been indicted for the killing. They remain at large and are being tried in absentia.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt and Yoruk Bahceli; Editing by Andrew Heavens)