March 14, 2008
Prosecution witness Joseph D. “Zigzag” Marzah concluded his testimony in dramatic fashion today, ahead of a two-week break in the trial. Angered by Defense Counsel’s suggestions that he was never close to Charles Taylor, Marzah alleged that he, Taylor and Benjamin Yeaten were all in the same poro society (a traditional West African secret religious society) and that Taylor himself had eaten human hearts with him on multiple occasions. Marzah appeared shaken and crossed himself, explaining that he had broken the laws of his poro society and exposed its secrets.
Throughout the day, Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths continued to point to discrepancies between Marzah’s testimony and earlier statements he had given to the Prosecution. Griffiths also continued to argue that Marzah was not senior enough in the NPFL to have taken orders from Taylor, that arms shipments from Liberia to Sierra Leone would have been impossible while ECOMOG peacekeepers controlled the roads and airports, and that Marzah was simply lying. Griffiths suggested that prosecution payments to Marzah gave him a reason to lie about Taylor.
At one point during the morning Court went into a brief private session when Griffiths wanted to pose questions to the witness that raised witness protection concerns. It then returned to open session.
Did ECOMOG prevent or assist arms deliveries to Sierra Leone?
Griffiths asked Marzah about the period of the interim government in Liberia, and Marzah agreed that in 1996-1997 there were many peacekeepers from the Economic Community of West African States in Liberia, although he couldn’t say how many. Marzah agreed that these mostly Nigerian ECOMOG peacekeepers were based at Roberts International Airport, the Buchanan Port, and stationed at checkpoints along all major and minor roads in the country. Even before Griffiths challenged Marzah about how he could have shipped weapons and ammunition to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone at Taylor’s orders if ECOMOG controlled these routes, Marzah alleged that some Nigerian officers in ECOMOG were corrupt and had been bribed by Taylor. Specifically, he testified that a Nigerian captain named Victor (not General Victor Malu, he said) had been assigned to Taylor’s residence, and had arranged for Taylor and his men to transport weapons through the airport, and past checkpoints in ECOMOG vehicles. Marzah couldn’t recall the officer’s surname, but said he had been shot and wounded in an attack on the Executive Mansion. Marzah testified that some Nigerians with ECOMOG assisted the onward delivery of weapons and ammunition to Sierra Leone, in connivance with Taylor.
Marzah couldn’t say where this Nigerian Captain, Victor, had lived, at which point Griffiths asked why he wouldn’t know such a thing if Marzah had really been as important as he claimed. Marzah replied that he was the third highest official in Liberia after Taylor and Yeaten due to their shared membership in a poro society. At this point, he said that he had eaten human beings with Charles Taylor.
Griffiths asked Marzah why he had never previously mentioned this bribery scheme relating to ECOMOG to prosecution investigators. Marzah answered that there was so much to tell about what he had done, and that he answered questions as they came.
Griffiths asked Marzah about the UN-supervised disarmament at the time of the interim government. Marzah testified that only the “ugly” (damaged) weapons had been destroyed, and that Taylor had ordered the good weapons buried, and transport some to Gbarnga. They had been assisted in this by the Nigerian officer, Victor.
Griffiths suggested to Marzah that he was lying about taking arms and ammunition to Sierra Leone for Taylor, that in 1996-1997 this would have been impossible due to the ECOMOG presence, and that any weapons Marzah had sold to the RUF had been done privately for his own gain. Marzah denied lying, and testified that anyone acting without Taylor’s orders would have been risking their life.
Other defense challenges
In the late morning, Griffiths asked Marzah if he had been using his mobile phone during bathroom breaks in the previous days’ testimony to receive instructions from someone outside the courtroom. Marzah said his phone hadn’t worked since the beginning of his testimony, and he was angry about that because he couldn’t even call his family. He said court security had told him that his phone would not function again until his testimony was over. He told Griffiths to ask security about the phone if he wanted to.
When Griffiths suggested that Marzah was testifying in exchange for payments from the prosecution, Marzah said he had a large palm and rubber farm, and that he and his wife ran several businesses, so that the amounts from the prosecution to cover his expenses meant little to him. Griffiths suggested that Marzah got the money for the farm and the businesses through private arms dealing. Marzah replied that he made his money while working as a soldier in the Doe and Taylor regimes, and stated he had received large payments from Taylor, including one after seven safes were stolen at Roberts International Airport and taken to Taylor at Gbarnga.
Griffiths recalled Marzah’s earlier testimony about Taylor being responsible for the Camp Carter massacre at Harbel, and asked him if he was aware that a United Nations investigation found it to be the responsibility of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Marzah insisted that Taylor had been responsible, but there was no way he would have told the investigators about NPFL involvement during Taylor’s administration, or he would have been “dealt with”.
Marzah described Taiwanese arms deliveries brought by Gus Kouwenhoven in ships after Taylor had been elected president. Griffiths entered into evidence a recent ruling by a Dutch Appeals Court that overturned Kouwenhoven’s conviction of breaking the arms embargo on Liberia and asserted that Marzah was lying.
Allegation that Taylor engaged in cannibalism
Griffiths put to Marzah that he had never sat with Taylor and received orders from him, and that he had never spoken with Taylor on the phone or radio. Marzah responded heatedly that he spoke to Taylor “so many times, even before he established the poro society where we ate people’s livers”. (In earlier testimony, Marzah stated that when he said “liver”, he meant the human heart.) Marzah continued, saying that the reason Taylor trusted him was because of the poro society law. He said that Taylor had participated in eating the heart of Sam Dokie, and named a woman whom he said had cooked Dokie’s heart for them. He continued, saying that when Taylor escaped from Ghana, he had called Yeaten to prepare two hearts, and the three had shared those upon his return.
Griffiths again put to Marzah that he had never spoken with Taylor on the phone or radio, or taken orders from him. Marzah said that they ate together in the poro society “to safeguard our secret”. He stated, “Now I have disclosed to you the secrets of my poro society”, and said he would no longer be a member. He said Taylor had been the Dankpannah, the big man who gives orders in the poro society. “When you look at his face, you will be shrouded in fear. He had authority.” Marzah crossed himself, and Griffiths asked whether he was crossing himself because he had just lied under oath. Marzah answered that he had broken the laws of his poro society, and that everything has been exposed.
Griffiths again asserted that Marzah was lying. Marzah insisted he was telling the truth, and said he would appear before Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Defense had no further questions, and the Prosecution had no questions on redirect examination. The judges had no questions for Marzah either, and the witness was excused.
The trial session ended. There will be a two-week judicial recess beginning on Monday. The trial will resume on March 31, 2008.