March 7, 2008
The Charles Taylor trial resumed this morning – but in the absence of the accused. According to Defense Counsel, Terry Munyard, the new security escort charged with bringing Taylor to Court had subjected the former Liberian president to an “intimate search of considerable intrusion and considerable pain”. Munyard said this was the first time it had been done, and Taylor objected. Munyard told the Court that Taylor was “humiliated” and “perfectly willing to come to Court” if this behaviour stopped. According to reports Munyard had received from the International Criminal Court (ICC) security personnel, the security escort decided not to continue with the search. Taylor arrived, dressed in a blue suit, blue tie and white shirt, seven minutes after the Court sat. The Court adjourned while Munyard took instructions from Taylor.
Meanwhile ProsecutOR Shyamala Alegendra, who had conducted the examination of the current RUF insider witness, Mustapha Marvin Mansaray, was also absent from Court. Her colleague, Mohamed Bangura, explained that she was scheduled to return to Freetown today and had expected the witness to have finished his testimony by yesterday. Alegendra, who is based in Freetown, was prepared to stay on when Mansaray’s cross-examination was not finished yesterday, until she found out that she could not return to Freetown for two weeks if she did not return last night. Bangura asked for leave to take over from Alegendra, which was granted.
Munyard then continued his cross examination of Mansaray. Mansaray sat in Court in a grey button down shirt with his hands resting on his desk before him. The first half of the session was organized around two maps of Liberia, which the Defense provided to the witness. Munyard was trying to determine how the witness got to Tinee and Bomi Hills in 1991 when the witness claimed that he and others from the RUF were addressed by Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor. The Defense appeared to be trying to establish the difficulty Charles Taylor would have had in getting from the town he was staying at, Gbarnga, to Bomi Hills where he allegedly addressed the RUF members. However, the witness said he did not know the geography of Liberia nor was he able to see the roads because the vehicle he was in was large, filled with weapons and senior commanders, and the passengers had to lean on each other to survive. He was fearful and couldn’t get his head up to see where he was or the condition of the roads.
Munyard stopped this line of questioning and moved on to the payments made by the OTP (Office of the Prosecution) to the witness in relation to his pre-testimony interviews, starting from 2003 up to this year. A focus on these payments continued through the end of the session. The Defense suggested that the witness was either being paid to give evidence, or otherwise financially profiting from his relationship with the OTP. Expenses down to minute details – the cost of a packet of cigarettes (1000 Leones, or approximately 30-40 cents) were explored for the rest of the session. The witness had to explain all the assistance provided by the OTP. Mansaray repeatedly denied that he was being paid for evidence, or that he had profited from the financial assistance he received from the OTP (for food, transport, accommodation, lost wages, or payments for his wife’s operation or his four children’s school fees, uniforms, books and shoes).
In the half hour after this session was scheduled to end, the Court moved to discuss the next witness to be called. Munyard indicated that Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths (who had prepared to cross-examine the next witness the Prosecution wanted to call on next Monday) will be cross-examining an expert witness at a retrial back in London next Monday. He cannot say for certain whether he can be in The Hague for Tuesday morning. The Prosecution wanted to push ahead with the witness, as they had put extraordinary security measures for a family of a witness in place for next week. If the witness did not start providing testimony by Monday, according to the Prosecution, their evidence may not be finished by the end of next week. Yet the security measures for the family of this witness can only be guaranteed until the end of next week. “This is the most important trial taking place in the world today,” said Nick Koumjian for the Prosecution. He said that the Defense had appointed four senior counsels, and the witness should be able to start his testimony in chief even if the Lead Defense Counsel was not in Court. The Defense objected to the way the Prosecution had dealt with the Defense about this witness and the order in which the witness was scheduled to appear, and argued that it was not proper for the Prosecution to expect that another Counsel could simply take over preparations for the witness over a weekend. Lead Prosecutor Brenda Hollis responded forcefully to object to the Defense’s objections. The bench retired to consider the decision.
Cross-examination of Mansaray will continue on Monday at 9:30 a.m.