January 24, 2008
Defense Counsel Morris Anyah methodically deconstructed Prosecution witness Abu Keita’s statements to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in an attempt to attack Keita’s credibility. Anyah read Keita’s inconsistent statements from past interviews with the OTP into the record. These inconsistencies consisted of direct contradictions, as well as omissions. Based on Keita’s inconsistent statements, Anyah asked Keita if his memory was more accurate in his earlier statements. Keita responded that his memory is better now than it was when he gave his earlier statements.
Keita faced difficulties understanding a number of the questions posed by Anyah. At one point Presiding Judge Doherty noted Anyah’s potentially confusing use of double negatives. It was unclear at times whether Keita was affirming or negating a statement Anyah read into the record. The Defense placed transcriptions of Keita’s prior testimonies to the Prosecution on a computer screen in front of Keita. Keita cannot read or write; therefore, he was unable to follow along as Anyah read from these transcriptions.
The Court faced difficulties when the prosecution called its next witness, TF1-371. This witness is subject to a protective order from Trial Chamber I, which forced the Court into closed session. After switching between open and closed sessions, the Court finally returned to a closed session. It is unclear whether the Court will be in closed session tomorrow or whether the witness will be protected through other measures, such as limited audio in the public gallery and shielding of the witness from public view.
The Court seemed ill-prepared for its first protected witness. When the Court first entered closed session, journalists were told the Court would not enter open session again that day and left the ICC building. ICC building staff were unaware when the Court session reopened. Court staff have expressed concern over the difficulties and seek to ensure the smooth functioning and transparency of the proceedings.
Defense Attacks Inconsistencies in Abu Keita’s Statements
Anyah referred to four documents containing transcriptions of interviews and interview notes from Keita to the OTP: (1) an interview on February 2, 2003; (2) an interview with Corinne Dufka on June 30, 2003; (3) an interview on February 13, 2005; and (4) an interview on July 16-17, 2007.
These documents were used to contradict Keita’s testimony:
- With regard to Keita’s arrest and imprisonment at Saw Beach, Anyah questioned whether it was based on suspicion of collaboration in the coup attempt. Keita reiterated that he knew nothing about the coup attempt. Anyah also asked Keita whether his arrest was based on his refusal to follow orders to fight against Johnson’s forces. Keita responded that the AFL, including himself, was not called upon to participate in that mission. After Anyah read portions of Keita’s July 16-17, 2007, statement to the OTP in which he stated he was arrested for not fighting in this battle, Keita confirmed that he was arrested for refusing to fight against Johnson’s troops.
- Keita had previously stated that Varmuyan Sherif took him out of prison when Keita was arrested and held at Saw Beach prison based on his involvement with Roosevelt Johnson. During Keita’s interview with Dufka on June 30, 2003, he stated that Papay Kuyateh took him from prison to meet with Musa Cisse. Keita denied this statement in Court.
- In his February 2, 2003, statement to the OTP Keita told the OTP that Yeaten recruited him to work for the SSS. Keita denied this statement in Court.
- With regard to Keita’s meeting at Yeaten’s house before he left for Sierra Leone, Keita testified yesterday that Yeaten, Eddie Kanneh, S.B. Rogers, Rashid, Montgomery, and Sherif were present at the meeting. Anyah noted that Joe Tuah and Sheku Suwape Koroma were also present and Keita agreed. Keita did not remember if Foday, Bockarie’s bodyguard, was present. Keita did not say yesterday that Jah Aro or Kuyateh were present. In addition, Anyah noted that during Keita’s interview with Dufka on June 30, 2003, Keita mentioned that Sherif, Kuyateh, Musa Cisse, Bockarie, and Koroma attended the meeting, and that no other individuals were at the meeting. Keita said this statement was incorrect.
- Yesterday Keita testified that Yeaten gave him three bodyguards before his trip to Sierra Leone. On June 30, 2003, Keita told Dufka Yeaten gave him 11 bodyguards.
- Keita told Anyah that he did not leave Monrovia to travel to Sierra Leone with Bockarie, and that he only left with Marzah, Jungle, Sampson, and Mike Lama. In his February 2, 2003, interview with the OTP, Keita said he left Monrovia with Bockarie. Keita denied this statement in Court.
- Keita told the OTP on February 2, 2003, that when Bockarie and Keita went to Buedu 350 men arrived within the week. Keita testified yesterday that these men arrived in two batches, the first batch in December 1998 and the second batch in January 1999.
- Keita told Anyah that he never traveled to Monrovia to meet Yeaten or Taylor. Anyah referenced Keita’s statement from February 2, 2003, in which Keita said that he was present on three occasions in 1999 when Bockarie met Taylor in Monrovia to deliver diamonds. Keita denied this statement in Court. In addition, Anyah referenced Keita’s statement from July 16-17, 2007, in which Keita said he traveled to White Flower in 2000 to retrieve supplies for men fighting in Guinea. Keita acknowledged this statement but said the date was incorrect. Anyah also referred to Keita’s statement from June 30, 2003, in which he said Issa Sesay and Taylor met and had a discussion in front of him. In the statement, Keita said, “I can’t lie because I went there.” Keita denied this statement in Court.
- Anyah asked Keita who “the chief” and “the director” referred to, and Keita said Yeaten. Anyah asked Keita who “Pa” and “Papey” referred to, and Keita said Taylor. Anyah referenced Keita’s July 16-17, 2007, statement to the OTP in which he referred to Taylor as “the chief.” Keita denied this statement in Court.
- Keita told the OTP on February 2, 2003, that he was based in Makeni from January 1999 until April 2001. Anyah questioned Keita about whether he was actually in Buedu when Bockarie came back to Buedu from Monrovia in January 1999. Keita testified yesterday that Bockarie had returned with a Land Cruiser from Taylor at this time. Anyah alleged that Bockarie never returned with a vehicle from Taylor, but rather returned via the same helicopter he left in. Anyah referred to a prior statement to the OTP in which Keita said Bockarie returned in the same helicopter. Keita responded that this was referring to a different time Bockarie traveled to Monrovia.
Abu Keita’s Credibility
Anyah raised a number of issues that challenge Keita’s credibility.
- Anyah confirmed that Keita met with a number of key figures on the day Yeaten recruited him into the RUF, including Yeaten, Bockarie, and Ibrahim Bah (former fighter with the NPFL). Anyah questioned whether Bah would speak about diamond sales and whether Taylor would speak about assistance to the RUF in front of an individual they had met for the first time that day.
- Anyah also noted that Taylor’s residence, White Flower, was not fully constructed in January 1999 when Keita allegedly went to Taylor’s house and met Taylor. Although construction began in 1997, the official opening of the residence did not occur until January 28, 1999. Prior to this time, according to Anyah, Taylor lived near the German Embassy. In addition, Anyah emphasized that the transcriptions of Keita’s interviews with the OTP make no mention any meeting with Taylor during either his first interview with the OTP on February 2, 2003, his second meeting with the OTP on June 30, 2003, or his third meeting with the OTP on February 13, 2005. Keita said that he mentioned meeting Taylor during these interviews and stated that any omission was due to OTP error.
- Anyah questioned Keita about Bockarie’s command over Buedu. When Keita arrived at Buedu, Bockarie took his bodyguards and radio, and said there could be only one commander on the ground. In addition, Anyah noted that Keita had no troops even though he was assigned a very important mission in the region. Anyah noted that Bockarie’s alleged actions contradicted orders from Taylor and Yeaten. Anyah may have been implying that Taylor never assigned Keita to his position in Buedu.
Contradictions to Abu Keita’s Testimony
The Defense questioned Keita regarding individuals whose testimony could further undermine Keita’s credibility.
- Anyah questioned Keita regarding his relationship with Roosevelt Johnson, leader of ULIMO-J. Anyah pressed Keita about meetings with Johnson in which someone named Dolleh, a member of the transitional government of Liberia of Gyude Bryant, may have been present. Keita denied that Dolleh, Arma Yulu, or Madison Wion were at any meetings Keita had with Johnson (but noted that Barbor Aruna was at the meeting), and Keita denied Anyah’s questions that the meetings involved planning an overthrow of Taylor’s government. Keita stated he never knew about the coup attempt.
- Anyah suggested an alternative explanation as to why Keita went to Buedu. He asked Keita a series of questions implying that Keita went into hiding in Monrovia after he was arrested and that Sheku Suwape Koroma asked Keita and another man to go to Buedu to help recruit soldiers from Liberia into the RUF. Anyah’s questions implied that Koroma gave Keita 500 USD and the other man 400 USD to work for him in Buedu. Anyah’s questions further implied that Koroma took Keita and the other man to Buedu to work for Bockarie. According to Anyah, at some point Sam Gboley arrested Keita’s partner and Keita was afraid to return to Liberia, at which point Keita stayed in Buedu and joined the RUF. Anyah’s final question alleged that Keita was no more than a logistics officer for the RUF in Buedu.
- Anyah referenced a meeting between Keita and the OTP in Freetown from November 22-27, 2007. According to Anyah, after this meeting Nancy Bounducca, Mary, and Akim Bombola heard Keita tell Idrissa “Churchill” Kargbo that Keita mentioned Kargbo’s name to the OTP and that Keita wanted Kargbo to go along with Keita’s statements. Keita allegedly told Kargbo that Kargbo and his family would receive asylum and be relocated if he cooperated with the OTP.
Prosecution Re-examines Abu Keita
Prosecutor Nick Koumjian briefly re-examined Keita. In response to Anyah’s questions regarding the OTP’s disbursements to Keita, Koumjian noted that the disbursements related to hotel, travel, and other transportation costs. Koumjian questioned Keita regarding radio communications with Yeaten. Keita stated that he spoke directly to Yeaten on a radio about his letter of appointment given to Bockarie to give to Keita.
Prosecution Calls TF1-371
The Court entered into closed session for Prosecution witness TF1-371, who will testify in English, because this witness received protected status in an order on June 14, 2006, from Trial Chamber I in a prior Special Court case against the RUF.
Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths objected to this ruling and argued that this particular Trial Chamber must issue an order calling for protective measures. According to Griffiths, a failure to do so would deprive the accused of his ability to challenge the substance or basis of the ruling.
Presiding Judge Doherty noted that the order granting protective status to TF1-371 mandated that testimony of that witness be heard entirely in closed session. Rule 75(F) of the Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence states that once protective orders have been given, they shall continue in effect in any other proceedings before the Court. A party seeking to rescind protective measures ordered in the first proceeding must apply to the Trial Chamber seized of the second proceeding. The Court (by majority decision) ruled that having not received a motion to rescind the order, the order shall stand before Trial Chamber II.
The Court then entered closed session, but reopened to discuss alternatives to completely closed sessions. Presiding Judge Doherty ruled that there would be a modified closed session during which the two side curtains in the public gallery would remain open and the middle curtain would be closed to block public view of the witness. The Court also rejected a Prosecution motion to admit the witness’s evidence from the RUF trial.
The Court adjourned to explain these procedures to the witness. When the proceedings resumed, there was a problem with the witness and the Court again entered closed session.
The trial will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. and will end early at 1:30 p.m.