February 12, 2008
Defense Counsel Terry Munyard continued his cross-examination of Linkage Witness Suwandi Camara. Camara gave seven interviews to prosecution investigators, resulting in statements and clarifications thereto as well as interview notes drawn up by the investigators. The cross-examination continuously focused on inconsistencies between these written documents and Camara’s testimony in Court. The defense was trying to discredit the witness. This strategy, going back and forth between statements, makes it difficult to offer a running account of the testimony in cross-examination. Adding to this, Camara testified in the Mandingo language and there were again some time-consuming interpretation difficulties.
On several occasions the Defense pointed out inconsistencies, asking Camara if his respective written statements had been read back to him and if so, why he had not corrected any mistakes. The following topics were covered.
Camara’s reasons for leaving Gambia
In one of his statements Camara had declared that he left Gambia and went into exile because of involvement in a coup, whereas he testified in Court that he left Gambia to improve his financial situation. On cross-examination Camara tried to reconcile his declarations by stating that he left for financial reasons and that this merely coincided with the tentative coup in the Gambia.
Charles Taylor in Libya
munyard challenged the exact timing of Camara’s presence in Libya. Camara was not precise on this issue. He maintained that he was in Libya around the end of 1989, that is sometime in the period from December 1989 to January 1990. Munyard confronted Camara with the fact that on 24 December 1989 Charles Taylor’s groups entered Liberia. Munyard suggested that it was unlikely for Charles Taylor to have been in Libya shortly after this event. Munyard put it to Camara that he had not actually seen Charles Taylor at the Mahtaba hotel in Tripoli, as Camara had previously declared. However, Camara maintained that this was the case and that he saw Charles Taylor twice in Libya. Specifically, he testified that he had seen Charles Taylor at the reception desk of the Mahtaba hotel, where Taylor was briefly discussing with Camara’s leader Dr. Manneh and then left. He did not see Charles Taylor give anything to anyone and also did not see him speak to anyone else but his leader Dr. Manneh.
The cross-examination then focused on Camara’s activities at the Mahtaba hotel. Camara testified that he was in Dr. Manneh’s room where he received weapons training. Munyard went into some detail as to how a weapons training could take place in a hotel room.
After the lunch break, Munyard continued along the same lines as in the morning, i.e., comparing Camara’s written statements to his statements in Court. The focus was on his whereabouts and activities after Libya, as well as his knowledge of the situation on the ground in Liberia. Accordingly, Munyard spent time establishing when and how long Camara stayed in Burkina Faso, Gambia and Liberia. Also addressed was the number of TDY’s (“Temporary Duties in the Year”) which Camara carried out. As to Cobra Base, Camara was unclear as to whether SBU’s were trained there.
Camara’s military rank was also discussed. He declared having been given the rank of Captain in the NPFL in 1992, but Munyard put to him that no ranks were given until 1994. Munyard then asked Camara to state the names of many officials associated with Charles Taylor, including the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Staff, the Minister of State and the Police Commander. To the extent Camara was able to provide names, Munyard put it to him that he had it wrong each time. Camara, however, affirmed that he was simply telling what he knew. As before, Camara suggested that Munyard clarify this with “the man sitting next to you”, whom he said was his commander-in-chief. Defense Counsel Munyard responded that Camara should stop doing this, as Charles Taylor (who Munyard pointed out was in fact sitting behind him) is no longer commander-in-chief and that Camara should simply answer the questions put to him.
Munyard tested Camara on his geographical knowledge of Liberia, particularly in relation to the western part of Liberia (in the period 1992-1996). Questions put to the witness concerned, for example, which roads could be traveled on by car and whether the Saint Paul River could be crossed by car.
Taylor was present in Court today, dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and a red tie.
At 4.30 p.m. Court adjourned until tomorrow 9.30 a.m., when the cross-examination of Suwandi Camara will continue.