Lead defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths continues his cross-examination of prosecution witness Varmuyan Sherif:
Def: On this page, I want to ask about this paragraph: Witness states that Yeaten went frequently to Foya and would meet Bockarie there on a regulary basis. Yeaten was accompanied by Mazar, Sampson and other bodyguards. Witness understands Yeaten took arms and ammunition with him on these trips, he has no direct knowledge these were handed to Bockarie? Is this true?
Wit: I did not see it. The bodyguards assigned told me they saw a truckload of arms handed to Bockarie at Beudu, in their presence.
Def: Going back to the document about the payments, we see that following those interviews, on July 22 you received 50 US dollars for transport, meals and communication. In July 2006, were you still living in Monrovia?
Wit: I was in Monrovia.
Def: Were the interviews that month also in Monrovia?
Wit: All interviews were in Monrovia.
Def: The next interview I want to ask about took place on July 30, 2006. (Requests that two photographs be shown to the court, which had been introduced by the prosecution during the direct examination of Sherif.) Do remember being asked about these photos?
Def: We see that on July 30, 2006 in Monrovia, you were seen by investigators with the office of the prosecutor. You were asked about these two photos. It says that picture #1 was taken during the dry season of 1998. When were these photos taken?
Wit: One was at the border of Sierra Leone, one at Foya. The top was at the border between Sierra Leone and LIberia.
Def: You told us you are in that photo, second from right.
Wit: I’m the one with the cap. (Points to himself in photo.)
Def: We see you’re not wearing a uniform?
Wit: I was not wearing a uniform at that time.
Def: What can we see in that pick-up?
Wit: Arms and ammunition.
Def: Can you point that out?
Wit: (Witness points.)
Def: What is that in the photo?
Wit: Inside the vehicle were arms and ammunition to be turned over to Sam Bockarie.
Def: Whatever is visible in the back of the pick-up, what is it I’m looking at?
Wit: Arms and ammuntion.
Def: Am I looking at a pile of mud?
Wit: Arms and ammunition.
Def: Were the arms and ammunition covered by anything.
Wit: Some were in rice bags, covered in mud. Some were not in bags.
Def: When we look at the second photo, when was that taken in relation to the first photo?
Wit: When I was getting closer to Foya I was in uniform. In Foya I unexpectedly met Bockarie. I was supposed to meet him in Beudu. At the border I changed into civilian uniform. This uniform was introduced by Taylor and were only meant for use during special operations.
Def: These were taken on the occasion you personally handed arms and ammunition to Sam Bockarie?
Wit: The top one is. The bottom one is the time I was going to Foya.
Def: What was the purpose of taking the first photograph, the one where you’re in civilian clothing?
Wit: We had several pictures with Bockarie. That was the time they said Bockarie was a wanted man. When Taylor sent Bockarie to Burkina Faso, that’s when I destroyed all of my pictures with Bockarie. I had many with him all over. This is the only one left.
Def: Does Sam Bockarie appear in the photo at the top?
Wit: No. All of the ones with Bockarie were destroyed.
Def: Although someone recorded this interest, you can’t show a single picture where Bockarie was present?
Wit: Given a chance, I think I could find photos.
Def: Why haven’t you found them until now?
Wit: When the UN announced it was looking for Bockarie and Taylor was looking out, I was scared and told all my family and others to destroy all of the photos with Bockarie. Why should I keep them?
Def: I’m asking because I suggest that no such arms transaction took place.
Wit: The arms transaction took place.
Def: It may be that these photos were taken on two completely unrelated occasions.
Wit: All are related to the arms I was handing to Bockarie.
Def: If you were involved in arms dealing, that’s when you were a commander in ULIMO.
Wit: Look at the picture. There’s an SSS badge on my shoulder. This uniform was brought by Taylor for SOD, a unit of the police. SSS used them on special operations.
Def: Last week I asked what uniforms were worn by senior ULIMO commanders. That’s the uniform you’re wearing here. You were not delivering arms at the instruction of Taylor.
Wit: You can find out – you can learn who introduced these uniforms.
Def: You were asked about these photos on July 30, 2006. Ten days later, on August 9, you were given 300 US dollars -an emergency payment for temporary relocation of family members. On September 19 you were given another 100 dollars for locating witnesses. Then you were given another 100 dollars for dollars for transportation and lost wages. Then in October you were given 250 dollars for relocation of family members. Between beginning of August and the beginning of October, you received some 500 US dollars. What for?
Wit: 500 US dollars was given to me for me to take two persons to Foya, to be able to identify the area where Johnny Paul was. There were claims that Johnny Paul died there. That was for a two-week trip. It was not my mother land. I needed to hire a car, to get food and water.
Def: My calculations were wrong. The total comes to 715 US dollars. That’s a lot in Liberia, isn’t it?
Wit: I never signed for 700 dollars anywhere. I don’t even think it was 500.
Def: That was the total over these months. That’s a lot for Liberian standards, isn’t it?
Wit: It was not enough for the job I was doing.
Def: Are you giving evidence for the money?
Def: (Points to another document) This was a further interview conducted with you over two days in November 2006. Present were Alain Werner (a prosecutor) and Janet Tommy. You were asked details at the beginning about your involvement with ULIMO. Later, you see “The LURD was a rebel movement active after…”Taylor’s election in 1997. Kamara was leader of LURD since its creation. Then Sekou Konneh took over from Jemandeh (ph) Kamara and is the leader of LURD until today. Mosquito Spray–Fassian Jacketeh–was with LURD–intitially a spokesman. He wanted to get rid of Bockarie and Varmoh, the two mosquitos. About 50% of LURD was Mandingo. Former ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K in its ranks, but mostly ULIMO-K. Do agree with all of that?
Def: (Reading) From 2001, LURD had complete control of Voinjama until 2003. LURD took Kolahun, occupied Zorzor in 2002,. Voinjama, Kolahun and Zorzor were three LURD bases from 2001-2003. Is it the case that LURD controlled that part of Liberia for that period?
Def: LURD were effectively a buffer between Liberian forces and the RUF?
Wit: I don’t understand.
Def: Earlier, when we asked about ULIMO’s occupation of all of Liberia bordering Sierra Leone, that effectively ULIMO stood between the RUF and Liberian government forces?
Def: During this period you’re talking about here, LURD was in the same position–between the RUF and Liberian forces?
Wit: Before 2003, LURD advanced toward Monrovia.
Def: So effectively, they controlled all of Liberia bordering Sierra Leone?
Def: (Reading document:) Foya controlled Taylor forces, AFL and pro-Taylor militias until 2003 when announcement was made that Taylor was leaving. Message was sent for Taylor forces to retreat. It was so important to Taylor to keep control of Foya because it was the border town to Sierra Leone. When LURD started, the Guinean government did not know about it or finance it. Is that true?
Def: (Reading a passage describing first attacks by LURD on Liberia). Two weeks between the first three attacks. Attacks came from Guinea, through Sierra Leone. They came through Sierra Leone because they didn’t want it known that they came from Guinea. After these attacks, Taylor’s forces in Lofa County started organizing themselves. That’s when they contacted the RUF to send assistance in Lofa. So you agree there was a degree of cooperation between RUF and Liberian forces in order to repel the LURD invasion?
Def: (Reading) LURD had massive support from Guinean government after the attacks in 2000 on the four fronts. After these attacks, the Guinean government was massively attacking LURD. Is that true?
Wit: During the first and second attacks, Guinea was not supporting LURD. When Taylor forces attacked into Guinea, Guinea then decided to support LURD against the Liberian government.
Def: Didn’t they support LURD from the beginning?
Def: (Reading from statement summary again:) During Taylor’s presidency, the only active battlefield in Liberia and military concern for Taylor in Liberia was in Lofa County. Is that true?
Def: That interview was on the 10th and 13 of November, 2006. On November 26 you received 50 US dollars. It states here that the money was for “source development”. What is “source development”?
Wit: That’s not a question for me.
Def: It sounds suspiciously like money be given to someone to encourage sources of information. Were you given money to effectively bribe people to come forward?
Def: The very next day you were given a further 300 dollars for source development. Why did you need 350 dollars for this?
Wit: They sometimes needed me to bring an individual from Maryland, or somewhere else, and I needed to hire a car.
Def: On November 29 you were given 50 dollars for transport, lost wages and meals. So whoever wrote this was describing what it was for. So when we see 350 dollars for source development, it was not for you to travel to see people. What was it used for?
Wit: I went to Nimba County, to most of the troubled areas. It was a very dangerous area. I was supposed to bring Zigzag Marzar.
Def: Now we come to your most important interviews. (References another document.) This interview was conducted over the 29th and 30th of November, and the 4th of December 2006–three days, in Monrovia.
Wit: Right. It was just about the Nimba trip to get Zigzag Marzar. I had to hire a car for three days.
Def: What was the purpose of this interview?
Wit: There were several interviews from 2005 to 2007. I cannot remember some of the dates. Some of the monies given to me–I used it for the trip to Lofa, to Nimba, to Boma Hills, and for my own expenses.
Def: We’ll come back to the payments soon. Did this interview in November/December 2006 follow your trip to Nimba?
Wit: I had many interviews.
Def: Was this interview after your trip to Nimba?
Wit: From July-December 2006, I had trips to Boma Hills, Nimba and Lofa. That was all 2006.
Def: This was 21 months after your first interview in February 2005? Do you agree?
Def: When we see here (reading): when the witness and his three bodyguards pulled into Kailahun town, witness saw 20-30 RUF men. Witness asked RUF soldiers where Bockarie was. They pointed to the man talking to the soldiers as Bockarie. Witness told them to bring Bockarie. Witness sent bodyguard that SSS men sent by Taylor were there to see him. Witness and bodyguards saw at least ten or so people with their arms tied behind their backs taken to Bockarie. Witness saw Bockarie talking to persons in Krio. He was in uniform and apparently coming from Freetown. Bockarie was shouting at the prisoners. Witness saw Bockarie shoot them with a pistol in the head, one after the other. Why did it take you 21 months to tell the OTP about this incident?
Wit: I did not forget that this happened. I didn’t have 100% trust with the Special Court people during my first interview. I left some things out. I was worried for my life. Then I realized they only wanted the truth. Then I gave them the entire story.
Def: So when you first spoke with the OTP, you were tailoring your account due to your mistrust of them?
Wit: Due to the information from Roland Duo, who misled everyone in Monrovia. People were running so they wouldn’t be arrested and jailed in Freetown. I was telling the truth.
Def: Before this interview, you had been interviewed on three other occasions. Why did you wait until November 2006?
Wit: I left some parts out. I said things out of my own volition. I was not forced.
Def: Do you remember telling us last week that Bockarie executed five people?
Wit: I said five.
Def: Why does it say ten here?
Wit: Ten were brought outside. He killed five, then said of the remaining men, I want them dead before I come back.
Def: Here it says Bockarie shot “all of the people that were there with their arms tied”. Was it five or ten?
Wit: It was five. I didn’t say all. They brought ten out of the cell, and Bockarie shot one after the other. He gave instructions, the remaining ones outside and others inside should all be killed before he comes back.
Def: But you agree it says differently here?
Wit: I have said what I explained.
Def: (Referencing another page of statement:) Still regarding the Bockarie trip, this summary says one of the soldiers who was escorting the witness when they took Bockarie from Beudu said Bockarie was in possession of diamonds and that he’d seen them. This soldier told witness they should take the diamonds, kill Bockarie and run to Guinea. Bockarie had ten bodyguards. Witness didn’t agree to kill Bockarie because witness’s family was in Monrovia and Taylor would kill his family if he killed Bockarie. Name of the soldier was Master General, who later fought with LURD. Master General saw the diamonds when Bockarie took his jacket off–a small mayonaise jar–before getting a haircut. After 21 months, this is the first time you ever mentioned a mayonaise jar of diamonds to the investigators?
Wit: It was not the first time.
Def: Why did it take you 21 months to mention it?
Wit: The information I gave the people was not forced on me?
Def: Why did it take you 21 months to mention it?
Wit: I didn’t give all the information on one day.
Def: Look again at that paragraph. It says “Master General saw the diamonds when Sam Bockarie was taking his clothes off before getting his haircut…” Why doesn’t it say “I, Sherif, saw the diamonds”?
Wit: The people didn’t write the information correctly. They didn’t even write down everything.
Def: Why doesn’t it read “I saw the mayonaise jar with diamonds”.
Wit: The person who took the information from me got it wrong. Both Master General and I saw the diamonds.
Def: Why doesn’t it say so?
Wit: That question should go to the person who wrote it down.
Def: So once again you were misunderstood?
Wit: They may have had trouble understanding Liberian English.
Def: Didn’t they have an interpreter?
Wit: They had a Krio interpreter, not one for Liberian English.
Def: You told them what they wanted to hear in exchange for money after they told you in “off the record” conversations that they wanted to hear about blood diamonds.
Wit: That’s not true.
Def: That interview was end November/beginning December. On November 27 you were given 300 dollars for source development. On the first day of the interview you were given 50 dollars. Then you were given 125 dollars. Then you were given 50 dollars. Then on Dec 4 they gave you 15 dollars. Following December 4th, after you finally told them about diamonds, from December through July, you received constant payments–and yet you were not being interviewed. On Jan 25th you got 50 US dollars. Then 100 in late January, then early Feb, 5 dollars, then …. (counsel lists numerous additional payments into July 2007). During that whole period there was not a single interview. You’re in it for the money, aren’t you Mr. Sherif?
Wit: I do not have any records about all of this.
Def: Once you mentioned diamonds the money started coming in. That’s what you wanted.
Wit: Not true.
Def: What’s the money for after that interview?
Wit: I left Monrovia with my family to be relocated, when my family was under threat. From April I have received an allowance in the area I was. This money cannot compare to the money Taylor used to give me. He gave me 20,000 dollars, 10,000 dollars, 5,000.
Def: Let’s look in detail at the purpose of these payments. On Nov 29, the 50 US dollars given was for transport, lost wages and meals. On 30 Nov you were given 125 US dollars to enable witness to communicate with the OTP. What was that for?
Wit: I went to Boma Hills to locate someone they wanted to see.
Def: It says communication.
Wit: It was to hire a vehicle for 50 or 75 dollars per day.
Def: The next payment is for transport and lost wages.
Wit: Hiring a car from Monrovia per day costs 50 or 75 dollars.
Def: On December 4, 15 US dollars for lost wages…
Wit: That was for transportation to locate someone. 15 dollars was for a scratch card for the phone to take with me to a location where I was looking for someone.
Def: Whoever was keeping records, was being quite particular about what the money was for?
Wit: I know what the money was for.
Def: Here it says you received 50 dollars for transportation to search for witnesses. Then more transport, then for a top-up card. Then in February, 120 dollars for family assistance. What’s that?
Wit: I did not ask for that. My family did not have travel documents.
Def: Payment for travel documents is listed separately. Why did they give you money for family assistance?
Wit: They did not. I was working at two jobs and did not need family assistance. They made a mistake.
Def: Again, the person writing made an error?
Wit: I did not receive family assistance.
Def: You were given 100,000 Liberian dollars for lunch and dinner provided for your family. What was that?
Wit: After my family was relocated from Monrovia, the Special Court had an obligation to pay for those meals.
Def: What’s this 88,000 Liberian dollars for medical treatment and meals?
Wit: Nobody gave us cash for medical assistance. Sometimes they brought food, or gave us money for food. They never gave cash for the hospital. They took us to the hospital. Maybe that amount is what they gave to the hospital.
Def: Here it says 50 Liberian dollars to feed your family for a week. Were they supporting you?
Wit: They suppported me. They asked Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to stop paying me because they were paying me.
Def: So you became totally dependent on the OTP?
Wit: No. I still earned 300 US dollars each month with the DDRR program. I’ve worked with them from 2003 until now.
Def: So you were no longer with the SSS?
Wit: I am employed there but not taking pay.
Def: We see on April 4 you are given 20 for the purchase of one SIM card and credit card.
Wit: They gave me no money. They gave me a phone to communicate with my external family. If I had problems caused by the Special Court, I needed to make calls. They gave me no cash. Maybe that’s the amount they used to buy the phone.
Def: I want to look at a couple more payments. Here it says 20,000 Liberian dollars given to you: “source provided with funds in order to obtain information for us”. What was that about?
Wit: It was communication expenses.
Def: Were you ever given money in order to obtain witnesses for the prosecution?
Def: On July 17 you were given 5,000 in local currency for “prosecution prepping”. In July of 2007, you met with lawyers from the OTP?
Wit: I don’t remember the dates.
Def: On July 16-17, 2007 you were taken to a witness preparation room. Brenda Hollis and Joseph Saffa were present. We know you were there to be prepped for trial. What did that preparation involve?
Wit: I don’t know the meaning of “prep”.
Def: You spent two days being prepared by prosecutor Hollis. What did that involve?
Wit: Please explain what the preparation is.
Def: That’s what I’m asking you! What was being said to you, and what were you saying to them?
Wit: She never met me in Liberia, only in Sierra Leone. She did not understand some of the place names and I explained.
Def: Were you told what you might be asked?
Wit: No. She just told me to say what I know and to only tell the truth.
Def: During this preparation, you said: In 1998 in Voinjama, while escorting Bockarie to Liberia, witness saw diamonds taken out of Bockarie’s pocket. This is the first time you ever said you saw a mayonaise jar with diamonds. How did that come about?
Wit: This was not the first time. Maybe I explained it off the record. Sometimes I explained and nobody would write it.
Def: In November 2006 you speak of Master General seeing the diamonds, and it’s not until 8 months later that you mention seeing a jar full of diamonds. How do you explain that?
Wit: It’s not true, what you’re saying. When the interviews started at the beginning, I asked them sometimes to stop writing when I spoke. Some of the information I wanted to be off the record. I would walk out if they kept writing. In the early days, Roland Duo and others created fear in Monrovia about the Special Court–that anyone who said anything about Taylor would be arrested and taken to Freetown.
Def: Moving on, you say Taylor went to Guinea in 1998 to meet with Presidents Conte and Kabbah. Taylor told Kabbah he was not supporting the RUF. Taylor told Conte that he understood people were organizing in Guinea to attack him in Liberia. Conte said it wasn’t true. But LURD were organizing in Guinea, weren’t they?
Def: Yet Conte told Taylor it was not true. (Refers back to statement:) LURD attacked Voinjama area in 1999, then retreated back to Guinea. Taylor complained to Conte, but Conte denied that the attack came from Guinea. A second attack from Guinea, through Koindu, Sierra Leone. Taylor again complained, but Conte said the attack came from Sierra Leone. These attacks led Taylor to attack Guinea in 2000. Were you present when these conversations took place between Taylor and Conte?
Wit: When they first met, a close bodyguard was there when they were talking. Later they had a closed-door meeting.
Def: I suggest that is a lie. In meetings between heads of state, there are no bodyguards present.
Wit: Not in all cases.
Def: You’re trying to paint a picture of being close to Taylor in order to enhance your evidence?
Wit: I was close to him. That’s why he invited me to Calabar along with Roland Duo. If I was not trusted by him, would he have done that?
Def: I hope you understand my suggestion.
Wit: I was a close person to him.
Def: On both days of the interview in July 2007, meals were provided during the interview, and it’s noted that the payments were for prosecution prepping. The final payments made to you were on Aug 2 and 30. No reason is given why you were given 20,000 in local currency on Aug 2. What was that for?
Wit: I don’t know. I didn’t see the purpose of the money. They didn’t give me local currencies. Every payment made to me was in US dollars in Liberia. No amount was given to me in local currency.
Def: (Refers to another document:) This is a clarification interview in Monrovia, on Aug 6, 2007. Present were David Cunningham and Joseph Sesay from the Office of the Prosecutor. Here it says the conversation regarding diamonds was incorrect. VS had nothing to do with diamonds. CT was saying SB had money to buy from the fighters who had not previously turned them in. What part of the conversation regarding diamonds was deemed incorrect.
Wit: It was in Voinjama. At no time did I discuss the diamond issue with Taylor. I saw diamonds with Bockarie when I took him to Taylor.
Def: (Referring to another document). This was an interview with you over four days in November 2007. Present were Joseph Saffa, Magnus Lamin and Alain Werner (a prosecutor). You were shown a number of photographs and asked to identify a number of individuals. Do you remember?
Def: You were then asked about a number of names. I want to remind you of the context. And then there’s this: witness gave additional information–witness, when working in the SSS as assistant director of operations, could attend any meeting he wanted but he noted that not everything was said in his presence because he was a former enemy. You weren’t an insider, were you?
Wit: I was an insider. Sometimes Taylor sent for Yeaten and had a secret meeting. Anything relating to RUF and Bockarie, I was not part of that. Even when I was sent to bring Bockarie, they used me for the Lofa part, and Zigzag Marzar and Benjamin Yeaten did the other parts. They were NPFL men.
Def: Do you agree that it was clear that when certain matters were being discussed, you were deliberately excluded.
Wit: I could be in any meeiting. They didn’t ask me to leave, but would not say some things in front of me. By virtue of my position they never asked me to leave.
Court is now adjourning for lunch. Proceedings will resume at 2:30. With the half-hour delay to the media center, our coverage will resume at 3:00.