Former RUF Radio Operator Completes his Testimony; a New Prosecution Witness Takes the Stand

The Hague

April 16, 2008

Protected prosecution witness TF1-516 completed his testimony today. Defense Counsel Morris Anyah finished his cross-examination just before the lunch break, and then Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura conducted a brief re-examination. Near the end of the day, the Prosecution called its next witness TF1-334 to the stand: Alimamy Bobson Sesay, a former member of the Sierra Leone Army.

The day began with lead prosecutor Brenda Hollis requesting that the court go into private session to discuss a matter relating to matters discussed in private session yesterday. After deliberating for about ten minutes, the chamber rejected the Prosecution application for a private session.

Defense completes its cross-examination

At the conclusion of its cross-examination of prosecution witness TF1-516, the Defense sought to raise doubts about the witness’s credibility through a number of means.

Continuing one type of questioning from yesterday, Anyah implied that parts of the witness’s story simply didn’t make sense:

  • Asked when he had first seen former RUF leader Sam Bockarie in Monrovia, the witness said it had been December 2000, but that then he had seen him nearly every day at Yeaten’s compound. Anyah was incredulous that he could have been assigned to Liberia when Bockarie was in Monrovia for a full year without seeing him. The witness explained that he had often been at the front lines. Anyah noted that the witness testified to seeing other RUF commanders at Benjamin Yeaten’s compound during that period.
  • The witness testified that he did not know whether Foday Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma had been in Liberia following the July 1999 Lomé Peace Accords. He said he had not been aware of Sankoh’s movements following his 1997 arrest in Nigeria until hearing sometime in 1999 that Sankoh had arrived in Buedu. He knew vaguely that at some point Sankoh had been moved from detention in Nigeria to detention in Sierra Leone. Anyah wondered how the witness, who testified that while working as a radio operator he had still been able to listen to RUF radio communications, could not have known that after Lomé, Sankoh had spent an entire week in Monrovia meeting various people including Johnny Paul Koroma. Further, he expressed disbelief that the witness would not have known that Sankoh and Koroma attended an elaborate ceremony in October 1999 prior to their return to Sierra Leone. Anyah asserted that Benjamin Yeaten had been present at that ceremony, but the witness said that if he had accompanied Yeaten to Monrovia, he likely would have been working in the radio room at the time.
  • Anyah showed the witness a photograph, which the witness said was inside the RUF guesthouse in Monrovia. He identified four of the five individuals in the picture and said they had lived with him in the same camp in Zogoda. Anyah asked why, if that was true, the witness had only remembered three of their names in an earlier interview with the prosecution. The witness said he had to think, and that thinking about these events for a long time had spurred his memory.
  • Anyah asked about the witness’s departure from Liberia in 2001, and the witness said that he left without Yeaten’s permission when people around him suspected that a Sierra Leonean had been communicating with Kamajor forces in Sierra Leone. The witness said he feared for his safety. He testified that when he got to Sierra Leone, he called Yeaten on the radio, but that Yeaten was not angry because it was usual for the witness to cross into Sierra Leone and come back. Shortly afterward, the witness joined the disarmament program in Sierra Leone. Anyah put to the witness that he was lying about calling Yeaten from Sierra Leone, but the witness said that he had even spoken to Yeaten after disarmament, for the last time, in late 2001.

Anyah spent part of the day quizzing the witness about various facts. He asked the witness again to mark the location of the RUF guesthouse in Monrovia and provide estimates for how long it took to get from there to Taylor’s residence, and from Taylor’s residence to Bockarie’s residence. Anyah also asked the witness to name members of the Liberian Special Security Service (headed by Yeaten) and the Anti-Terrorist Unit. Anyah also asked the witness if he knew several individuals, but the witness said he did not remember them.

At the end of the cross-examination, Anyah went through the list of payments to the witness from both the Prosecution and the Special Court’s Witness and Victims Section, which is not a part of the Office of the Prosecutor. By doing so, Anyah seemed to imply that the witness had a financial incentive to testify against Taylor, but today he did not press that accusation overtly. The witness explained various items, including transportation expenses, payments of 10,000 Leones (about 3.30 U.S. dollars) per day for his time, communication expenses and meals. He said that in many cases money had not been given to him, but the Court had paid expenses directly. Although for the most part he could not remember receiving payments on specific days, he could remember receiving them when he went to the Court, and agreed that the total figures sounded about right.

Prosecution re-examination of witness TF1-516

Following the lunch break, Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura briefly re-examined the witness based on items raised during the cross-examination:

  • Bangura asked the witness to clarify what the Defense had said was a contradiction in his testimony that he had been “captured by the RUF” in the dry season of 1991 and an earlier statement to the prosecution that he had “joined the RUF” in the rainy season of 1991. The witness noted that the statement itself included references to “capture” in early 1991 (which is in the dry season) and “joining” in the rainy season. He said his capture had been around March 1991, and that when he spoke of “joining” in the rainy season, he’d meant being sent to the front line.
  • The witness confirmed that radio codes had changed when Issa Sesay replaced Sam Bockarie as the leader of the RUF, and he described how they had changed.
  • The witness explained the differences in the terms “code book”, “operational book”, “log book”, and “message book”.
  • The witness confirmed that a location could be referred to by the name of a radio call sign used there, even after the call sign was no longer in service. Such was the case at Buedu, he said, after Sam Bockarie’s radio call sign changed.
  • Bangura asked which commanders used the radio call signs “Marvel” and “Planet One”. The witness said that both Sam Bockarie and Issa Sesay used these, although they were Bockarie’s. He said Sesay would use them when ordered by Bockarie, or when Bockarie was in Liberia and Sesay was put in charge during his absence.
  • The witness clarified his testimony from yesterday, stating that in Buedu, the radio would be used away from Bockarie’s house during the daytime and when bomber jets threatened, but were sometimes used on the verandah of the house at night or when there was otherwise a better security situation.
  • The witness explained that a code name was for a radio operator and a call sign was for a radio. Places could take on the names of a call sign (such as Buedu being referred to as “BZ4”), but that operators would never be referred to by their call signs rather than their code names.
  • Bangura asked the witness to estimate the number of times he had crossed back into Sierra Leone while based in Liberia from June 1999 to November 2001. The witness said it was so many times that he could not provide an estimate.
  • Asked about the lengths of his stays in Monrovia, the witness said that his visits there lasted anywhere from a few days to a month.
  • Bangura asked about the witness’s testimony regarding diamond mining in Kono, in clear response to the defense argument that the witness could not have been working with King Perry in Kono at the time because Perry had testified before the Court earlier that he was based in Makeni at the time. This witness said that it sometimes took four hours to get from Makeni to Kono, and possibly longer if there were attacks near the route, but that it was normal at the time to drive from one town to the other and return on the same day.
  • Bangura established that the witness had never been interviewed by Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as had been implied by the Defense on cross-examination. Rather, the witness said that his name appeared on a list of names in an annex of the TRC report because everyone at his school had been asked to fill out forms describing their wartime experiences.
  • The witness confirmed that he had actually walked the distances in Monrovia for which he had provided time estimates under cross-examination.
  • The witness said he knew that a group of Sierra Leoneans he had met in Liberia had crossed into the country with Sam Bockarie and had been trained for the Liberian ATU because he used to speak to them. He listed several of their names.
  • The witness confirmed that he had created none of the documents regarding payments to him that had been presented by the Defense, and neither had he made any entries into them.

Before the witness left the stand, the Prosecution moved to admit all documents presented during his testimony into evidence. The Defense objected to admission of the code book and operational notebook presented in Court, arguing that they were so unreliable as to be worthless to the deliberations of the judges. In both cases the judges ruled that the documents were relevant and admissible. Other prosecution documents were entered into evidence without defense objection, and all three defense documents were entered without prosecution objection.

A new witness takes the stand

Prosecutor Shyamala Alagendra called the next prosecution witness TF1-334, whose protective measures had been rescinded by court order. The witness said he was an Evangelist named Alimamy Bobson Sesay, also known as Bobby, Pastor Bobby, Pastor Bobson, or Pastor Yapo Sesay. Additionally, he said that during the war, he had been called “Ice T”. A Sierra Leonean, he testified that he had joined the Sierra Leone Army in 1991 after the government requested recruits following a threat on BBC radio issued by Charles Taylor: that “Sierra Leone will taste the bitterness of war”.

Asked where he was between 2000 and 2004, the witness said that he had been in a group of 14 who were sent to Pademba Road Prison in Freetown because Johnny Paul Koroma accused them of trying to assassinate him. He said they were never charged with a crime, and were released following pressure from Sierra Leonean NGO’s, the British military training mission, and the Red Cross.

As the day ended, Sesay began telling of how his assignment in the military had changed at the time of the May 1997 coup by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Before the coup, he said he served as a military police officer at the defense headquarters in Freetown. After the coup, he said he served as an “Orderly Corporal” at State House, the president’s residence in Freetown, and that he had been in charge of guard posts there.

At this point Court was adjourned and will continue tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.