BAGHDAD — Hm. According to this story, the names of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother, his brother-in-law and “other top Syrians” were edited out of the Mehlis report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
At a hastily called news conference, Mehlis told reporters that he stands by the final version and deleted names becausesince they were identified by a witness and had not been corroborated “it could give the wrong impression” of guilt.
“None of these changes were influenced by anyone,” Mehlis said.
Well, let’s not let the AP tell us what’s what. Here’s a (big) “PDF file showing all the markups”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/Final_Mehlis_report_markup.pdf. And here’s a “list of the markups”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/Mehlis_changes.pdf just to make things easier.
The key passage seems to be this one, on page 29 (strike-throughs are deleted in the final copy, bold-faced is an insertion):
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-Sayyedsenior Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri. He claimed that Sayyeda senior Lebanese security official went several times to Syria to plan the crime, meeting once at the Meridian HotelHotel in Damascus and several times at the Presidential Place and the office of Shawkata senior Syrian security official. The last meeting was held in the house of Shawkatthe same senior Syrian security official approximately 7seven to 10 days before the assassination and included Mustapha Hamdananother senior Lebanese security official. The witness had close contact with high ranked Syrian officers posted in Lebanon.
Ho, ho! Now, I’m no expert on Lebanon — or Syria for that matter — but why did Mehlis name names and then take them out? Fortunately, the markup has a time-stamp on all the changes. By examining the schedule of the special representative Detlev Mehlis, we can get an idea as to whether “these changes were influenced by anyone.” And, potentially, by whom.
Coincidentally enough, according a source of mine at the U.N., Mehlis and Secretary-General Kofi Annan met at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. The meeting was 50 minutes long. So that gives us a window of 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. on Oct. 20. When were the names deleted? According to my copy of the Word document, which doesn’t show it in the PDF I created, the names in the section I quoted above were deleted at 11:55 a.m. under the name of “special representative.” In the middle of a meeting with the Secretary-General? and “none” of the changes were influenced by anyone? Annan had no input during that meeting? Really? That’s unusual. A friend of mine suggested the meeting with Annan — and the deletion of the names — was the “please don’t get Syria invaded” meeting.
The two men also met later that day from 3-3:45 p.m. There appear to be no substantive changes during that meeting, and most of the ones immediately prior to it are corrections of typos and the like.
So, what happened in that first meeting? Who else was present? And why take out the names? I’m sure a lot of Lebanese would like to know.
[UPDATE 10/22/05 12:00:59 PM: Mehlis says the names were deleted to protect the “presumption of innocence.” I suppose that’s a valid reason, but indictments are handed down all the time in the United States and other democracies with the people named in it, and that doesn’t seem to harm the presumption of innocence.]
(I made the PDF files using Mac OS X’s built-in function. Not a single character was changed in making these PDFs. “Here’s the original Word document”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/Final_Mehlis_report.doc if people are interested.)