THE HAGUE, Netherlands, April 16 (UPI) -- The first person to take the stand in the tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is Karma Khayat, a journalist.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, backed by the United Nations, accuses Khayat , 32, and the station she works for, al-Jadeed Television, of contempt of court for revealing witness details. The accused claim they did nothing wrong and are fighting for freedom of speech.
Hariri served as prime minister from 1992 to 1998 and then from 2000 until he resigned in 2004. He and 21 other people were killed in 2005 after his motorcade was targeted by a bomb in Beirut. There are five suspects, linked to the Hezbollah militant group, who are being tried in absentia at the court.
Prosecutors argue Khayat and al-Jadeed used leaked information that compromised the identities of witnesses.
"I believe my role in court is not to defend Karma Khayat and not to defend al-Jadeed; there's nothing to defend, we have a very strong case," Khayat told BBC News. "I am there to defend freedom of speech and freedom of press."
The most high-profile leak in the case happened in 2011 when the identities of the bombing suspects were released, which some argue allowed them to go into hiding. Khayat argues that the list she published of the witnesses was redacted and that the identities of the suspect's are well-known.
"We're trying to get away from the dictatorships we have in our world," she said. "And now this attack on freedom of speech will only give the regimes of our world more creative ways of how to shut up, how to put a stop to free-willed journalists."