April 14, 2008
The cross examination of protected prosecution witness TF1-516 went into its third day today. For nearly the entire day Defense Counsel Morris Anyah questioned the former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) radio operator about inconsistencies between his testimony and prior statements to the Prosecution. Many of these focused on the timeline of his wartime experiences, with the witness explaining discrepancies in dates by saying that it was a long time ago, he didn’t keep records of time, and that he has always only provided estimated dates or periods of time. While the Defense was able to point to some other contradictions, the questioning frequently concluded with discussions of nuance and semantics.
Anyah questioned the witness about a list of RUF commanders. He testified that he knew “Base Marine”, a small boy at the time of his conscription, and also a Sherrif Parker, whom he also called “Colonel Sherrif”. He said that he even lived with the latter for a brief time in Monrovia. Anyah then asked the witness whether he knew that the real name of “Base Marine” was Sherrif Parker. The witness said that if that was the case, then there must have been two Sherrif Parkers. (Throughout his testimony, the witness’s mentions of “Colonel Sherrif” – including a war injury and later arrest – have recalled the account of the prosecution’s third witness, Varmuyan Sherif.)
Anyah raised a number of questions about inconsistencies in the witness’s matching of wartime events to dates:
- The witness testified that he was in the village of Pendembu for three months in 1991, and Anyah confronted him with notes of a prior statement to prosecutors in which he said he’d been there for six months. The witness said that he was in the hospital at the time and didn’t keep track of the days, but thought it was longer than three months. He noted that these things happened more than a decade ago.
- The witness agreed that he had arrived in Zogoda around November 1994. Anyah read from prior interview notes reflecting the witness saying that Julius Maada Bio was in power at the time, and then he asked the witness whether he was aware that Bio had only come to power in 1996. The witness said he had only told investigators of major events that happened when he was in each location, and that Bio had come to power while he was in Zogoda, not before his arrival. He said that he was in Zogoda in December 1996.
- Asked how long he had spent in Zogoda, the witness stated that it had been more than a year. At this point Anyah read from prosecution notes of a prior interview in which the witness stated he had been posted there for one year and then left in December 1995. The witness replied that he had been trained as a radio operator in Zogoda before his formal posting there after training. He also insisted that he had corrected the false December 1995 date in a subsequent interview with prosecutors – a point that Anyah conceded.
- Still focusing on the witness’s time in Zogoda, Anyah asked about another radio operator named Martin Moinama. The witness said that he had first seen Moinama when he came to Zogoda to take charge of the signals unit there under another commander in 1996 after RUF leader Foday Sankoh left for peace talks in Abidjan; later, he said, Moinama had joined Sankoh in Ivory Coast. Anyah presented documents from the 1998 treason trial of Foday Sankoh, in which Moinama testified that he had been in Zogoda with Sankoh in 1994, that Sankoh had left for Abidjan in the month of July 1996, and that Moinama left for Abidjan that same month. The witness countered that there was no contradiction, as Moinama could have been in Zogoda with Sankoh in 1994, then left again before his own arrival there. He said that Moinama could have been right that he was Sankoh’s signaler, but then sent on assignment elsewhere before joining Sankoh in Abidjan. However, Moinama had told the treason trial that he left for Abidjan in the same month as Sankoh, while witness TF1-516 testified that Moinama had arrived in Zogoda after Sankoh’s departure and stayed a number of months before leaving to join Sankoh.
- Anyah asked about the witness’s testimony about how long he had been in Buedu after leaving Zogoda, and the witness said it had been less than a year, until about August 1997. Anyah then confronted him with investigator’s notes reflecting that the witness told investigators he had been in Buedu for over one year at the time. Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura objected that the calculation in these notes was based on the same wrong December 1995 departure date from Zogoda that the witness had already corrected in a subsequent interview with investigators. Presiding Judge Doherty said that the Defense was entitled to ask the question and have the witness answer it.
- Anyah asked about the witness’s testimony that he had gone to Kono from Buedu, tasked with picking up battery acid needed to power the radios, but then staying on in Kono to oversee diamond mining. The witness explained that his superior, King Perry (Perry Kamara, 10th prosecution witness) had his own private diamond mining operation there, and had commanded him to participate. He said that he performed his radio duties for the RUF in the mornings, then oversaw diamond mining later in the day, and that this went on for some six months. Anyah then asked if the witness had been aware that Perry had testified in this Court a few weeks ago, and read from the transcript. Perry testified that during the period of 1997-1998 in question, he had been in charge of various radio stations from Makeni, and otherwise had occasionally been sent to Freetown for supplies. Anyah emphasized that there had been no mention of diamond mining in Kono. Witness TF1-516 noted that in part of the passage from Perry’s testimony, he did mention deployments in Kono, and he said that it was possible to be based in Makeni and drive every few days to Kono to check on the mining operation.
- The witness confirmed his testimony that he had been in Buedu for another period until his departure for Liberia in June 1999, but said it had been less than a year. Anyah showed him notes of prior statements that recorded him saying he had been in Buedu from March 1998 to June 1999. The witness stated that this left out an intervening period of a few months in the village of Sengema early in that period.
- Anyah asked the witness whether during his time in Buedu, he had ever received messages from anyone from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and the witness said that he had received calls for Bockarie from Gullit (Alex Tamba Brima) of the AFRC. Anyah then confronted him with investigator’s notes stating that he had never received or transmitted messages “on behalf of the AFRC”. Prosecutor Bangura objected that a contradiction was being put to the witness that did not exist because receiving messages “from” someone is not the same as receiving messages “on behalf of” someone. Presiding Judge Sebutinde stated that she felt the witness was smart enough to say what he meant. Anyah said that he would leave the matter for the judges to weigh.
- The witness confirmed his testimony that in Zogoda, he had not been authorized to send or receive messages to or from “the other side”, meaning operators in Liberia, but that he had received such authorization in Buedu. Anyah introduced notes from an earlier interview in which the witness discussed being in Buedu without such authorization. The witness confirmed this, saying he was not authorized immediately upon his arrival in Buedu, and that for a time he had remained unauthorized to communicate with Liberia.
- At the end of the day, Anyah asked whether Bockarie would allow the witness and others to be around when diamonds arrived in Buedu, and the witness said that he and others were around, and that he had seen diamonds. Anyah read from investigation notes reflecting the witness saying that the witness and others were not allowed to be around Bockarie and the senior commanders when the mining commanders reported to Bockare, and that the witness had never seen diamonds change hands. The witness responded to this by saying he had not been at the table when the diamonds arrived, which is what he had meant. He said that he had been in the radio station just in front of the veranda when Bockarie received the diamonds and sorted through them. He said that by “change hands” he had understood the investigator to mean an exchange of cash or something else for the diamonds, which he said indeed, he had not seen.
Anyah began the day by returning to an issue raised on Friday, when he asked the witness why a purported RUF codebook from the time that Issa Sesay was overall leader of the RUF would still have former leader Sam Bockarie’s name in it. The witness testified that there were still communications about Bockarie after he crossed into Liberia, and that these needed to be encoded. Further, he said that Bockarie had fought alongside RUF and Liberian forces in Voinjama in 2000. The witness claimed to have seen Bockarie himself once in Vahun, when he came from Monrovia, and again in Voinjama after the forces successfully retook it from anti-Taylor rebels. Anyah put it to the witness that he was lying about cooperation between Bockarie and the RUF after Bockarie’s departure in December 1999, but the witness stood by the account and in response to further questions, said he had heard Bockarie speaking on the radio with Taylor’s director of Special Security Services, Benjamin Yeaten, after December 1999.
The witness also said that on visits to Monrovia, he paid two visits to Bockarie’s compound. He offered a description of its location, but found it difficult to mark it on a map of Monrovia. He admitted that his knowledge of Monrovia’s geography was limited, and it also was not clear that landmarks that were the subject of questioning were all to be found on the small map provided.
Follow-up on the co-housing of prosecution witnesses in The Hague
On Friday, the witness revealed that he had traveled to The Hague together with three other prosecution witnesses and had been living with them for two weeks. Defense Counsel Anyah seized on the issue to question the witness’s credibility, implying that he and the other witnesses had had an opportunity to coordinate their testimony. Court officials have told charlestaylortrial.org that the practice of co-housing witnesses in not decided by the Prosecution, but rather by the Registry’s Witness and Victims Section, and is done because resources are limited and it is more cost-effective to co-locate witnesses. The officials noted that when defense witnesses come to The Hague during the defense presentation of its case, the same practice will be observed. The only witnesses who are housed separately are victims and perpetrators.