9:30 (10:00 with the delay in video and audio): Court is in session.[15-minute disruption in the video/audio feed]
Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp is continuing the direct examination of former Liberian President Moses Blah. (Due to technical difficulties, the first questions and answers of the day are not included here.):
Pros: Regarding this arms shipment you said came in a few days before Taylor’s departure in August 2003, I want to be clear about when Taylor came and when the arms came.
Wit: Taylor arrived late at night and the arms shipment arrived early the following morning.
Pros: In terms of Taylor and his control of the NPFL: before he became president, who gave orders to the NPFL fighters?
Wit: Before he became president, he was called the commander in chief of the NPFL. He gave the orders.
Pros: Who gave military orders when Taylor was president?
Wit: He was again called the Commander in Chief.
Pros: The forces Taylor had, or the Liberian government had under Taylor, how were they organized?
Wit: When Taylor was president, we had the Liberian army. He had his forces like the ATU, a very powerful unit that took orders only from him. There were other units like the Marine Unit. Some NPFL units were still active and standing by. They were not known to the public, but they were standing by. ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J were still in the bush and later started attacking again.
Pros: What were the units that weren’t well known?
Wit: They were in different locations. Forces like the Marine Unit and Artillery Unit were still there, in Gbarnga and other places.
Pros: Could the commander of one unit give orders to the commander of another?
Wit: No. This was a strong order. He was the sole commander of everything. Even the defense minister could not give orders. He was the sole commander in chief of the entire operations of the army. “He” is Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor gave the orders.
Pros: You mentioned the organizations LURD and MODEL. When did they become active in Liberia?
Wit: It was the later part of Taylor’s presidency. LURD came from ULIMO-K and MODEL came out of ULIMO-J.
Pros: Who was in charge of operations against LURD and MODEL?
Wit: The name was changed from NPFL and there were various commanders in charge of the units, but Benjamin was the overall commander and he could move from unit to unit, taking instructions and giving commands from President Taylor.
Pros: How was Benjamin Yeaten’s power compared to the defense minister?
Wit: Benjamin Yeaten grew so powerful that he did not take orders even from the vice president. The defense minister was nothing next to Yeaten. The defense minister was Daniel Chea.
Pros: Who made the announcement about Bockarie’s body?
Wit: Daniel Chea.
Pros: Did Yeaten become more powerful than Mr. Taylor?
Pros: Yesterday you talked about acts Yeaten was involved in. Was Yeaten ever punished for his actions?
Wit: No, and he was never investigated.
Pros: You mentioned several other individuals. Who did Taylor consult with the most about decisions he was to make?
Wit: There was the leader of our party, NPP – Cyril Allen. Sometimes with the Commissioner of Maritime Affairs, Benoni Urey. Sometimes he called himself Prime Minister, but that was just a joke.
Pros: When did Cyril Allen’s relationship with Taylor begin?
Wit: I don’t know how they met, but they were the best of friends for a very long time.
Pros: And Benoni Urey – when did Taylor’s relationship begin with him?
Wit: They were very old friends. The speaker at the time was also consulted on matters relating to government.
Pros: Who was the speaker?
Pros: You mentioned Belle Dunbar. When did Taylor’s relationship begin with her?
Wit: She was a friend of Taylor’s wife. She became head of LPRC.
Pros: When did that relationship begin?
Wit: I wouldn’t say.
Pros; When did the relationship with Grace Minor begin?
Wit: They were old friends.
Pros: And Kadiatu Finlay (ph)?
Wit: I don’t know, but she was a young girl and they met before he became president.
Pros: Who succeeded Nathaniel Barnes as Finance Minister?
Wit: Charles Bright. They were old friends.
Pros: What did Bright do before becoming finance minister?
Wit: I don’t know.
Pros; Who was in charge of the Central Bank of Liberia?
Wit: It was headed by another friend of Taylor’s who is Mr…. I will call the name later.
Pros: How long had they had a relationship?
Wit: They had been friends. This individual would come and they would greet each other like old friends.
Pros: Who appointed the head of the Central Bank?
Wit: President Taylor.
Pros: Let’s move to your own presidency. What did you do about the conflict in your country?
Wit: I became president within a week and I contacted ECOWAS to get permission to travel to my neighboring countries. I went to Sierra Leone, Guinea to meet the presidents. Then on to Côte d’Ivoire to meet Laurent Gbagbo. Lastly I went to Ghana to meet the president, who was chair of ECOWAS. Then on to Nigeria. Nigeria had played a large role in ensuring peace returned to Liberia. I met President Obasanjo.
Pros: What did you say to President Kabbah in Sierra Leone?
Wit: He welcomed me. We went to the State House. I said I was very very sorry. I told him in was not time for war during my presidency. I promised that there would be no cross-border attacks from my side. He promised too. He appreciated that I visited him. He promised to come to Monrovia the following week. I said it was not good that we fight. I said we should stop fighting. I told him if it happened in the past, I was sorry about it, but I would discourage that during my presidency.
Pros: What were you sorry for?
Wit: I told him that I was sorry because I saw what happened during Taylor’s presidency, and there were a lot of accusations that Bockarie was in Liberia and Liberians went into Sierra Leone to fight. I was sorry about those accusations.
Pros: What did you say to President Conté in Guinea?
Wit: I told him there was war out of Guinea. I apologized. He said please stop this war. I told him no one would attack from Liberia. I said, please discourage people attacking Liberia out of Guinea. Conté promised, and he admitted that there were groups coming out of Guinea to fight in Liberia. He said please call your brothers and talk to them. He said once we did that, he would tell them to talk to us. He said we had to do the same thing from our side.
Pros: What did you say to President Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire?
Wit: I was received like a president in Côte d’Ivoire. He was happy. He organized a press conference. He said that something happened in the past that he did not like. He said if your neighbor’s house is on fire, would you put gasoline or water on the fire. He said the parable was for Charles Taylor. He said Taylor added gasoline to the fire in his country and now his country was divided. He said so many people died. I said I am now president. Taylor is gone and no longer president. I promised him that no soldier would cross into Côte d’Ivoire even with a pen knife to attack your country. I promised him. It went on as I promised until I retired as president. I told him I had people in place to stop it. Any trouble from Côte d’Ivoire should be discouraged. Gbagbo agreed to that.
Pros: Do you know what he was referring to by gasoline?
Wit: He said if you had a neighbor in trouble, you should have gone to him and lift him up. He also said you should not go and step on his back. He said that Taylor sent soldiers to fight him and he did not like that. He said he would never forget it. I kept saying sorry, sorry, sorry.
Pros: You said you met President Kufuor in Ghana?
Wit: He was a little bit concerned about why I was going around the region. I said I was trying to unite my neighbors. I said let bygones be bygones. He said it was a good idea. I told him I was going to meet Obasanjo in Nigeria. And I left and went to Nigeria.
Pros: You met President Obasanjo in Nigeria? Tell us about that conversation.
Wit: I went to Obasanjo and told him that I needed more help, and he had done well, even by taking President Taylor for his country for the sake of peace. I thanked him for what he did. I explained to him that I had been talking to my neighbors to ensure them there would be no more war coming out of Liberia. He was happy and he congratulated me. I went back to Liberia. I spent the night in Nigeria and went back the following day.
Pros: What was happening in Liberia at the time?
Wit: There was a bitter fight in Liberia. There was war between LURD, MODEL and the Liberian government. He had helped with peacekeepers. He said they would continue until peace returned to Libreia. He tried to stop the war.
Pros: What did you do about the conflict when you returned?
Wit: I tried to call on the warring factions to bring them together. MODEL was very receptive to the whole invitation. LURD was willing to come. Before he indicated he was willing to come, he said he wanted a satellite television at his headquarters in Gbarnga – Sekou Conneh – the leader of LURD. I promised to send him a satellite TV and he must come and see me in Monrovia. I spoke to the head of peacekeepers at that time, from Nigeria. I prepared food, dancers to receive him. But unfortunately at a market place called Red Light, three pick-ups with armed men came. The people said no, if they are coming for peace talks they should not come with arms. The peacekeepers told me to disarm my people. I did that. When I heard that there were armed people at the market, I heard gun shots at the market. The UNMIL commander said I should run away for my safety. I said I would not run. They went to my disarmed men. I asked to rearm them. We went back to the marketplace. Sekou Conneh had turned back with his vehicles. About three market women had been killed. It delayed peace talks for a while.
Pros: What’s the name of the LURD leader? How do you spell it?
Wit: S-E-K-O-U K-O-N-N-E-H (sic).
Pros: You said there were other peace meetings. What were you able to accomplish?
Wit: The meeting was in the Executive Mansion. Sekou Conneh and the other LURD commander came. I appealed to them and said I was not there for power. I told them I would only there for 60 days and we would have to elect the chairman elected in Ghana. And I would turn over power to him and we would have to have peace until new elections. I said I would start disarming tomorrow morning. I said I would start voluntary disarmament to ECOMIL and they could send representatives. I said I expected them to do the same.
[pause while the witness is escorted to and from the restroom]
Judge Sebutinde: The witness mentioned disarming and giving the weapons to somebody. I wasn’t clear about who or what that was.
Pros: You said ECOMIL? Who were you referring to?
Wit: I disarmed as I promised. These arms were given to ECOMIL of the United Nations.
Pros: We’ve heard ECOMOG before.
Wit: No, that was earlier.
Pros: Yesterday you mentioned UNMIL?
Wit; That was the last one. There was ECOMOG, ECOMIL, then UNMIL.
Pros: Was it UNMIL that the weapons were handed to?
Wit: No, UNMIL came later.
Pros: Did you have any contact with the United Nations as president?
[brief disruption in video and audio]
Pros: During your presidency, what happened with the UN presence in Liberia?
Wit: They were good. There was no trouble. I tried to keep the situation calm as president. The relationship was good.
Pros: What about the numbers of United Nations…
[brief interruption in video and audio]
Wit: …these guns were things by which they lived. Now I was trying to disarm them. I must give them money. At one time my house was surrounded and they said if I did not pay, my house would be burned with my family. UNMIL came and arrested some of them. Later they paid some of them.
Judge Doherty: When you’re talking about soldiers, which groups are you referring to?
Pros: Who were the people complaining to you about having to give up their guns?
Wit: People from our former NPFL group. It was not LURD or MODEL. It was NPFL people who knew me. They said I must pay them for what they’d done for the NPP government. There was the ATU. They started the harassment. Later other groups – the marine unit, artillery group, and others.
Pros: As far as these individuals attacking you, how long did that continue?
Wit; It went on for pretty close to a month. I was always in problems with them. I would call the commanders and we would talk. Sometimes they would calm the boys. When there were problems, I was disarmed, so I had to call the United Nations. They protected my house.
Pros: After your presidency, did you have any contact with these individuals?
Wit: Yes, the group came again on one occasion. It was not a big group – 4 or 5 men. They said I must see that they get the money from the United Nations as promised…
[brief disruption in video and audio]
Pros: What’s your relationship today with these men that are disarmed?
Wit: The relationship is good, but before I left Monrovia to come to this court, there were some threats. There were leaflets on my house with threatening statements that if I come to testify in this matter, I will be killed. It would be the end of my life and my family. I am not accusing anyone because I did not see them. But it sounded like former members of the NPFL. Even sitting here, I am quite worried. But we have security in place.
Pros: During the 60 days you were president, what was the financial situation of the government?
Wit: There was nothing left in the coffers of the government. The finance ministry had no money. Companies were closed down. There was no money coming in. There was fighting going on.
Pros; Did you ask the Minister of Finance where the money had gone?
Wit: I asked him and he said some of it had been taken by the previous government. He said that they had taken the money away. I was not paid when I was president. Up until now I have not been paid for the period I was president.
Pros: How was it determined that you were going to stay in office for 60 days?
[brief disruption in audio]
Wit: …nobody was sure. On October 11 I was able to resign as president of Liberia and they were very surprised it happened?
Pros: Why were they surprised?
Wit: They were linking me to my former president. They said I was just buying time to fight. They were surprised I made a promise and kept my word.
Pros: When had you promised to leave after 60 days?
Wit: When I was sworn in, I promised not to stay one day longer than 60 days.
Pros: After your presidency, were you approached by investigators from the Special Court for Sierra Leone?
Wit: Yes, I was approached on 1-3 occasions.
Pros: What did you say to them?
Wit; They tried to inquire first of all – they were very polite in their questions to me. Some things I could not remember. They asked me if I was aware that there was a court in Sierra Leone to try the president of Liberia. I said yes, I was aware. One of the first questions was whether I was aware that Bockarie had been killed in Liberia and they understood I had been around then. I explained exactly what I said here. They came a few more times.
Pros: Did you ever ask them if you were suspected by the court?
Wit: Yes, I asked that question on one occasion. They told me no. They said the only person was President Taylor because he was president at the time.
Pros: Did you receive anything from them?
[brief disruption in audio – although video is still working]
Pros: Did they ever give you a letter?
Wit: It was at a later date. Just recently a letter came clearing me, that I was not concerned with the case. The letter was signed by one Johnson, one of the judges of the court. They said I shouldn’t put it in my mind that I would be investigated.
Pros: I believe we distributed copies of the letter signed by Mr. Johnson. [asks that a copy be provided to the witness and put on the screen] Is that the letter?
Def: The prosecution should make clear that this did not come from a judge, but from a senior prosecutor.
Pros: Certainly, this letter came from James Johnson, the Chief of Prosecutions.
[letter is marked for identification at the prosecution’s request]
Pros: I would like to display a 6-page document to the witness: Special Court for Sierra Leone – disbursements. [document is displayed to the court] During the course of your meetings with representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor, you already said there were expenses paid to you for a visit to the German Embassy. Did you receive other payments?
Wit: Yes. Sometimes they would come and I would put my generator on for a few hours. They would leave money for that. Sometimes they gave me scratch cards for my phone so that I could call them in Sierra Leone….
Pros: [refers to document] Do you recall receiving 50 dollars at that time?
Pros: It says lost wages – were you losing wages at the time?
Wit: Yes, I had a shop and sometimes I would have to close it for a time when I went with them. I have a very big business center where I stay during the day. My wife has a boutique in downtown Monrovia.
[brief disruption in audio]
Wit: There were some documents they wanted from me that were not in Monrovia at the time. I drove to and from Nimba to bring these documents back.
Def: I noted that the prosecution skipped the second item on the list.
Judge Doherty: I’m sure if he doesn’t, you will. I don’t think this is an objection.
Pros: It’s not my intention to mention every item, but to deal with the categories. Counsel can bring up other items on cross-examination.
Pros: You mentioned this trip up-country. Looking at other items, I see transport and medical…
[brief interruption in audio]
Wit: …when they called, I was on my way from the hospital. They wanted to talk and I said I can’t because I’m sick. I said I had to go back to see my doctor the next day. They wanted to talk to me that day, and gave me some money to pay the doctors’ bills.
Pros: I see $300 for medical, $538 for medical and fuel, on May 7: $100 for medical, $200 for meals and lost wages in October 2007; Jan 7, 2008…
[brief disruption in audio]
Wit: …I had a mild stroke on my left foot. It went completely dead. A doctor said I had to go to Côte d’Ivoire because they did not have equipment in Liberia. I was very very sick. They got involved and ensured that I went to hospital – the investigator said that.
Pros: I see airline ticket: $1,900 and another airline ticket for over $400. What is that?
Wit: The doctors recommended that I go to Abidjan. I had first been to the hospital in Ghana. The doctor said I would be in danger if I didn’t go to Ivory Coast. There were tickets for me and two bodyguards. Another ticket was when I sent someone to buy the drugs I’m taking – because they can’t be found in Liberia.
Pros: Did you go to Abidjan?
Wit: No, I suspended the trip because of the harassment. That was the time there were the leaflets. They said if I left here, it meant that I would be going to The Hague to testify. When I came back, my house would be burned down. So I didn’t go. I have the tickets still. Now I can go to Abidjan when I finish here.
Pros: Prior to you coming to The Hague, did you meet officers from the Witness and Victims Section of the court?
Pros; What did you discuss with them?
Wit: I discussed my security concerns. I said I could not leave my premises unsecured. Wherever I am, my home and premises must be protected.
[document is marked for identification]
Pros: [requests that a one-page document be shown to the witness and the court] This document makes reference to the WVS putting security and other facilities in place. It says the current costs of these measures is $3,200. Do you know how that was arrived at?
Wit: We had additional securities. Besides the threat on me, there were other visible things that were happening. My house is heavily guarded as we are talking now.
Pros: How many people live at your house?
Wit: In my house, I have my children, grandchildren, my wife and her relatives. There are 22 children there in school. There are maybe 50 persons living in my house. You would think my house is some kind of refugee camp. A bag of rice lasts two days in my house – that’s the kind of strain I’m under.
Pros: It says you were provided with a medical examination and drugs for $500?
[document is marked for identification]
Pros: There was one thing on the prosecution expense list: $1,000 for family expenses. What was that about?
Wit: I remember this – in January, I moved up to Ghana on this occasion. There were some receipts I was supposed to pay in Ghana. I was in Ghana for about a day and brought the medication with me from the hospital.
Pros: Your appearance here is subject to a subpoena. Prior to that subpoena being delivered to you, did anyone discuss that with you?
Wit: Yes, the investigators approached me. I said, look I am sick. I said if it’s a subpoena, then I would not be hostile to an international court. I said if this is not done, I will not leave this country to go anywhere.
Pros: Now let’s look at some exhibits – there are some pictures. They can be displayed on the projector. [first photograph is placed on court’s overhead projector] Do you recognize this person?
Wit: Benjamin Yeaten on the left, with a communication on his ear. I recognize a bodyguard to him – Sylvester Willow right behind him.
Def: Which of the several people on the right?
Judge Doherty: Please have the witness point to the person identified as Sylvester Willow.
[witness does so]
Pros: [another photo is shown] Who is this?
Wit: The one on the right with the shades is called John Yamanan (ph).
Pros; Who was he?
Wit: Previously he was a commander of the Executive Mansion Guard unit in Gbarnga, but he was dismissed. Later I saw him at the university in Monrovia. Now he works at Firestone.
Pros: Do you recognize anyone else?
Pros: [shows another picture – many people on steps] Do you recognize any persons in this picture?
Wit: Benjamin Yeaten, former President Taylor, at the back is Musa Njaye (ph) a senior aide d’ camp, Mrs. Jewel Howard Taylor – the president’s wife, Joseph Montgomery – the deputy SSS director.
Pros: Who is Musa Njaye?
Wit: The senior aid d’campe to Taylor at the time. He’s from The Gambia.
Pros: Just to be clear – he’s the one behind Taylor in the white uniform?
Judge Sebutinde: Can this witness write these names with arrows for the record?
Pros: We could do that, but these photos will be used for other witnesses.
Pros: [shows another picture] Do you recognize anyone in this photo?
Wit: Musa Njaye on the left, then former President Taylor himself, then Joe Montgomery with he necktie – with the shirt open, the man with his mouth open and a chain around his neck is Edwin Snowe – the former managing director of the LPRC – Liberian Produce Petroleum Processing something.
Pros: Who was Snowe?
Wit: The son-in-law to Taylor.
Pros: Who was he married to?
Wit: To President Taylor’s daughter.
Judge Doherty: We will now take the mid-morning break.
11:30 (12:00 with the delay in video and audio): Court will adjourn for half an hour.