LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands (AP) — A Lebanese television network went on trial Thursday at a special U.N. tribunal, accused of obstructing justice by releasing identities of confidential witnesses in the long-running probe into the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Al-Jadeed television and its deputy news director, Karma Khayat, pleaded not guilty to charges of contempt of court. Legislators and public figures in Lebanon have expressed solidarity with the network in recent days, and Lebanese journalists are showing support for Al-Jadeed against what they see as an attack on media freedom.
Khayat could face up to seven years in prison and 100,000 euros in fines if convicted in the trial that began Thursday near The Hague, Netherlands. The network would also face up to 100,000 euros in fines.
The network is accused of publishing a list of prosecution witnesses in the Hariri case in 2012, which the tribunal said could compromise the proceedings and undermine trust in the court's ability to protect confidential witnesses.
The 2005 suicide bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others was one of the Middle East's most dramatic political assassinations. Four Hezbollah members were charged in 2011 but have not been arrested, and so are being tried in absentia at the U.N. court. The trial began 15 months ago, and is ongoing. Hezbollah denies involvement, and the group's leader has denounced the court as a conspiracy by the U.S. and Israel.
Al-Jadeed is a secular TV station based in Beirut and a pioneer in revealing corruption cases in Lebanon. It has angered political groups in the past as well as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. It's one of Lebanon's most popular TV stations, airing live speeches and politician news conferences regardless of political affiliation.
Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.