Defense Completes Cross-Examination of Sherif; Prosecution Calls Dennis Koker as Next Witness

The Hague

January 14, 2008

Delay of Proceedings

This morning, the judges arrived in the courtroom at 9:00 a.m. and the Defense team was not present.  The judges were informed that Defense Counsel could not get into their office at the ICC.   Judge Sebutinde clarified that the delay was not the fault of the security personnel, rather the “unfortunate forgetfulness” of the Defense Counsel who did not have their key.  Charles Taylor was present at this time.  He was wearing a navy suit adorned with gold cuff-links, dark red tie, gold-rimmed sunglasses, a gold ring and a gold watch.

The trial resumed at 9:15 a.m. after the brief delay.   

The Court noted that the sitting hours for the trial would be changed at the request of the Defense.  The new hours are 9:30-11 a.m.; 11:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m.; and 2:30-4:30 p.m. except on Fridays where there will be no afternoon session.

Defense Continues the Cross Examination of Sherif

In its final day of cross-examination of Sherif, the Defense team visited several issues examined on Friday.  It also reviewed the payments Sherif received during the course of the investigation into this matter. 

Defense Argues Sherif Received Payments for Testimony Regarding Diamonds

Throughout the cross-examination, Griffiths referred to a summary of payments made to Sherif to suggest that the OTP paid Sheriff to offer testimony regarding blood diamonds.  He questioned Sherif’s motives for testimony and argued that “You are only in it for the money, aren’t you Mr. Sherif.”  To make his point, Griffiths repeatedly referred to Sherif’s statements with regard to seeing a jar full of diamonds in the possession of leading RUF member Sam Bockarie.  First, he asked Sherif why he waited 21 months from the start of his involvement in this investigation to mention this jar of diamonds.   Sherif responded that he offered more information as he began to trust the OTP.  Secondly, Griffiths pointed to payments that Sherif received after testifying about the diamonds.  (Charles Taylor and Defense Counsel laughed when Griffiths mistakenly described the jar as being full of mayonnaise rather than diamonds.)  Sherif denied that his receipt of these payments were in exchange of his testimony regarding the diamonds and stated that the payments he received from the OTP were for expenses.  He further stated that the amounts he received from the OTP did not compare to what he earned when he worked for Charles Taylor and that he still received USD 300 each month for his work on the DDRR (disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation) program.

Defense Argues Sherif was Prepped for Cross-Examination Testimony

Griffiths argued that the content of Sherif’s testimony had been prepared during the Prosecution’s preparation of this witness.   In support of this contention, he pointed to references in the payment record where Sherif had been paid for “prosecution prepping”.  He questioned Sherif about the preparation sessions that took place in the week before the trial commenced.  Sherif testified that the Prosecutors had simply questioned him during these sessions and that his only knowledge about what the cross-examination involved came from the cross-examination itself.

Arms and the RUF

Griffiths questioned Sherif with regard to transactions involving arms.  Sherif confirmed that he had seen arms being purchased and taken to Sam Bockarie.  He further testified that Charles Taylor had given him money to deliver to Sam Bockarie for the purchases. 

Griffiths then questioned Sherif with regard to whether the majority of arms bought by the RUF came from former ULIMO combatants.  Sherif disagreed with this characterization and stated that most of the arms came through Roberts International Airport.   Sherif also confirmed that the arms for the RUF came from all warring factions. 

During the questioning of Sherif, Griffiths tried to establish that Charles Taylor did not control all of the operations of these factions.  Griffiths asked whether Charles Taylor, after his election, controlled everything that various factions and militias did.  Sherif agreed that Taylor did not control everything.  Sherif also explained that Taylor would only pay money directly to those who were obligated to him.  He assisted these individuals with money and rice. 

Defense Counsel questioned Sherif regarding whether ULIMO bought arms illegally from ECOMOG.  Sherif said he was a commander in the battlefront and that he did not purchase arms illegally.  Sherif did admit that ULIMO troops would do private deals with Sierra Leonean military officers, but he was not aware of such interactions with Guinean troops.  He further explained that many of the arms used by ULIMO came from captured areas.

Defense Counsel Questions Whether Sherif was Part of Taylor’s Inner Circle

Defense Counsel continued to cross-examine Sherif regarding whether he was truly part of Charles Taylor’s inner circle.  Specifically, Griffiths questioned Sherif regarding a 1998 meeting in Guinea with President Conteh of Guinea and President Kabbah of Sierra Leone.  Griffiths stated that Charles Taylor informed President Conteh that he was concerned that Guinea was preparing to attack Liberia.  At this meeting, President Conteh assured Charles Taylor that this was not true.  Griffiths asked Sherif how he knew about the content of these discussions.  Sherif informed him that a close bodyguard was present at that time.  Griffiths countered with the argument that this was a lie as no bodyguards were present during meetings between the heads of state.  He stated that Sherif was fabricating the closeness of his relationship to Charles Taylor, which Sherif denied.

Prosecution Introduces New Witness, Dennis Koker 

At the introduction of the prosecution’s next witness, TF1-114, there was discussion regarding a request for rescission of the witness’ confidentiality as well as a motion from the Defense to exclude the witness based on the impartiality of the trial bench.  First, Brenda Hollis stated that this witness has testified openly in the previous RUF case and wishes to do the same in these proceedings.  The Defense Counsel objected because the witness testified in the AFRC case that consisted of the same panel of judges.  Additionally, Defense Counsel noted that the panel relied on this witness for several findings of fact in reaching their judgment.  The Defense Counsel stated that Rule 15 mandates that judges be impartial in proceedings before this court.  Defense Counsel stated that they were obliged to make this objection for the record in case there is an appeal in this matter.  The court responded that the objection was “completely unmerited” and denied the defense’s objection.

The witness, Dennis Koker, was sworn in wearing a gray suit, a navy blue tie with stars affixed to it, and an olive green sweater vest.  As Koker will be testifying in Mende, Charles Taylor wore a headphone set for the first time during the day’s session in order to listen to the interpretation.  Koker is from Sierra Leone and is a member of the Mende tribe.  In 1991, after the war started, he served as a soldier for the NPRC in Sierra Leone.  Koker provided security for the advisor to the President, S.B. Jumu.  Jumu was a member of the Supreme Council of State in Sierra Leone.

Court is adjourned until tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.