September 28, 2015 / 11:10 AM / 2 years ago

Lebanese journalist fined for contempt in Hariri killing case

Karma Khayat, vice president of Al-Jadeed television sits during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon September 18, 2015.Alia Haju

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A journalist who ignored a court order to take down internet videos that risked exposing the identities of witnesses in the case of Lebanese former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri's assassination was fined 10,000 euros ($11,000) on Monday.

Karma al-Khayat was convicted 10 days ago of failing to obey a court order to remove from the internet video interviews that risked exposing witnesses in the case against the five suspects in the 2005 bomb blast that killed Hariri and 21 others.

She was acquitted of the more serious charge of publishing material exposing witnesses, but prosecutors had nonetheless asked for a one-year jail term and a $100,000-euro fine for the journalist, saying she had shown "no remorse or regret".

Khayat, who was not in court, has described her conviction as an attack on the free press.

"I sentence Khayat to a fine of 10,000 euros," said judge Nicola Lettieri, adding that he would publish his reasoning in a separate, later filing. The defense team smiled and nodded after he read out the sentence.

"The heart, the core of the prosecution's case has been completely rejected," her defense lawyer Karim Khan told Reuters.

Earlier, he had told the court 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 wilfull blindness to a court order," he said in pleadings before the sentence was read out.

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 Dominic Evans

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