5:00 Fourth prosecution witness takes the stand

Prosecutor Christopher Santora calls the fourth witness in the trial of Charles Taylor, witness TF1-114.

The witness will be testifying openly in the Mende language.  This witness also testified openly in the RUF case (against Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao).

Defense counsel Morris Anya (ph) is raising an objection because the witness also testified in the AFRC case before this same panel of judges.  The chamber relied on this witness for several findings of fact in the AFRC judgement.  Defense points to parts of the AFRC judgment that relied on testimony from this witness.  The findings are: Bockarie controlled Kailahun, Beudu was attacked by the RUF, civilians were attacked in Beudu, identification of Alex Tamba Brima, that Alex Tamba Brima was a respected football player, that Brima took part in the May 1997 coup…

Judge Sebutinde asks what the point of this objection is.

Defense: We are concerned about the impartiality of the trial chamber regarding this witness.  The witness is being brought before the chamber to testify about facts and events that took place in Beudu, Kailahun District.  Some of that evidence featured in that trial of the AFRC.  The chamber found him to be credible.  Now he appears before the same judges.  It would be appropriate, in accordance with Rule 15 of the rules of procedure and evidence, we are obligated to make this a matter of record.  We propose that this situation could be resolved.  Justice Sow on this bench, who did not take part in the AFRC trial, could perhaps determine the credibility of this witness.  We would make the same application regarding any other witnesses who were found credible to appear in the AFRC case.

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis: Defense has raised nothing that might lead to a conclusion that the judges’ impartiality would be impaired for any reasonable grounds.  The standard in Rule 15 has not been met.

Judge Lussick adds: we have no idea what the witness will say in this case.

Hollis: Judge Sow is an alternate judge in this case.  We oppose the defense application and make the same submissions regarding defense objections for other AFRC witnesses appearing in this case.

Judge Julia Sebutinde (to defense): Do you know that this witness is to repeat his testimony from the AFRC case?

Defense counsel Anya: There will be overlap, surely.  We do not cast doubt on the judges’ integrity.  We are obligated to make this objection because you will be hearing testimony on matters you have already considered to be facts.

The judges are conferring. 

Judge Sebutinde:  The objection is completely unmerited under Rule 15.  We are professional judges who are able to weigh the evidence without bias.  The two cases are very different.  We now call on the witness to be brought in so that we may hear his evidence.

The witness, wearing a gray suit, white shirt and dark tie, has taken the stand and is being sworn in on the Bible.  He speaks in Mende through an interpreter.

Through a series of questions, prosecutor Chris Santora asks the witness about his identity and story:

Wit: My name is Dennis Koker.  I was born in Jimmi Bagbo, Bo District, in Sierra Leone.  I was born on December 26, 1968.  I am of the Mende tribe. I went to school in my home town, Jimmi Bagbo.  I stopped after grade five.  I speak Mende – my mother tongue, English and Krio.  Before the war in Sierra Leone, I worked in a construction company.  I made road signs.  After the war started, I joined the army of Sierra Leone, Daru barracks.  I joined in March or April, 1991.  During the NPRC regime in Sierra Leone, I was still a member of the army.  The NPRC regime came into power in 1992 and was led by Captain Valentine Strasser.  At that time I was personal security for a presidential advisor named E.B. Jumu.  He was a member of the Supreme Council of State and an advisor to the president.  At the time of the AFRC coup, I was at Juba in an electrical engineering workshop.

Time has run out on today’s session.  Court is adjourned to 9:30 tomorrow.  Our coverage will continue tomorrow morning at 10:00 (9:00 in Sierra Leone and Liberia).