Judge Doherty opens the sitting for the open session in the Special Court for Sierra Leone: “Good morning, if there are no preliminary matters I would like to remind the witness to his oath.”
The defense Mr Griffiths (“def”) starts the examination of former Liberian vice-president Moses Blah (“wit”).
def: You did not want to attend court voluntarily, did you?
wit: No…yes yes. If I was subpoenaed I would.
def: You did not want to attend court voluntarily, did you?
wit: I wanted to attend through the subpoena. If I was subpoenaed I would have come.
def: So you were willing to attend on subpoena before the court?
wit: No, I was willing to attend on a condition because there were delays and I had to work in hospital and there were two day-press days. I was willing to come.
def: Do you agree that people like the Liberian might think that a voluntary appearance and giving evidence against Charles Taylor, that you were a betrayer?
wit: These are rumours. There were intimidations. My people will be killed en my house would be burned down. This were intimidations. But I still came.
def: But do you agree that if you came voluntarily, people would see it as betrayal against the former president?
wit: I am coming here to say the truth and nothing but the truth.
def: Do you remember a press conference in Monrovia, prior to going to court?
wit: No, I do not remember.
def: I have a bundle of documents (defense is showing bundle to witness). If you turn to page one you will see that we have a press report, dated on the 7th April 2008, I read as follows: “Monrovia, Liberian’s former vice-president has been called to testify against Charles Taylor. Moses Blah said that the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone is trying Taylor for an alleged brutal war.” They also say in this report that a subpoena was sent to Blah and that he will speak the truth and that he would tell the court about Sam Bockarie. Do you remember saying this?
wit: Yes, I said that.
def: On page two you see another report and in the 4th paragraph, the report reads as follows: “I swear on the bible that I will say the truth and nothing but the truth. I will not testify pro or against Taylor but will answer to all the questions truthfully.”
Did you say that?
wit: Yes, I said that.
def: Is it true that we can get a fair assessment from you?
wit: Yes, you will get a fair assessment from me.
def: The subpoena reads as follows, that you “have been ordered to appear in court on the 14th April 2008 at 9.30 am unless you should show good cause for not attending. The subpoena is places in the hand of Moses Blah.” The subpoena also states that should you fail to comply with the court room, you will receive an indictment or conviction of condemnation of the court and you will be fined or imprisoned. Did this threat concern you?
wit: That is what was written in subpoena, so I took it as it was.
def: Did this threat concern you?
wit: It is how it was written in the subpoena. I was not the one that writes the subpoena.
judge: The question is not whether you agreed on what was written in the subpoena.
def: Let me ask you once more, were you concerned about this threat stated in the subpoena?
wit: I took it as it is.
def: Please go to the 4th page of the document. If we look at the last two lines of the page, you are quoted: “Blah could not say who killed Sam Bockarie, but he saw a Liberian rebel in company of Yeaten before his death.” Did you say this?
wit: That is the truth. I said it exactly so.
def: I would like you to know that if you have any difficulties understanding my questions, please let me know and I will rephrase them for you. Okay?
wit: Okay, I will.
def: I am only interested in the facts and what happens to them to your knowledge.
wit: I understand.
def: Do you agree that you were a colleague of Taylor since about 1996?
wit: … Is that a question? What does ‘colleague’ mean. He was my chief, my boss.
def: Did you became his adjundant?
def: His general and ambassador?
def: and vice-president?
def: Would you agree as a vice-president, that the president would be your colleague? You have you worked as vice-president closely with Taylor since mid 1980?
wit: Yes I agree. From ’85-’86 up to 2003.
def: You were by his side right by the bitter ending of 2003?
wit: I was there as a vice-president of Liberia.
def: Do you agree that on Taylor’s orders you were twice imprisoned and obtained and you still stood by his side? Did you see Taylor as a friend?
wit: Yes, I saw him as friend. I would tell the truth.
def: You were a revolutionary brother to Taylor?
def: Did the former president cared for the people of Liberia?
wit: That question is for the president. I cannot see in the mind of the president.
def: Did you care for the people of Liberia?
wit: Exactly, I care for the people of Liberia. That is why I stood by the revolution until the end and I tried to protect the Liberian people from danger.
def: That is why? To protect them, you stood by Taylor? Do you agree?
wit: Yes, I agree.
def: Do you recall being interviewed by the media in August 2003?
wit: No, I can not remember.
def: I will assist you there. Do you remember being asked whether you thought Taylor was guilty of war crimes? You said: “I don not think so.” Do you remember?
wit: No, I can not remember.
def: Please see your bundle under tab 1. It reads as follows: “Liberian former president on war crimes Sierra Leone” and then “I don not think so”. Do you remember saying that to the press?
wit: I can not remember. The press can say anything they want to say.
def: It is August 2003. It is in inverted commas. This means that it is a direct quote from you.
wit: I had a press conference in Sierra Leone. They asked me whether the president was guilty. I said that I will not prejudge the president until he had been judged in a court.
def: Can you think why any journalist would want to misquote you on such delicate topic for the Sierra Leonean people in a press conference in Sierra Leone? I am trying to test why a Sierra Leonean journalist at a Sierra Leonean press conference would misquote you?
wit: Mr Taylor is not guilty until he is proven guilty. We cannot prejudge the former president.
def: Are you saying that this newspaper has misquoted you?
def: Yes, I remember exactly what I have said and I did not say this.
def: You did not say it?
wit: It has been twisted. I did not say that, it has been twisted. What I said is what I said to you.
def: Can you give a credible reason why a Sierra Leonean journalist would misquote you?
wit: The Sierra Leonean journalist thinks his own way and I think my own way of the president of Liberia.
def: Have you followed the trial in Liberia?
wit: I have been busy. I have been sick. Sometimes I went to hospital for days or to family. But when I was in Monrovia I would follow the trial.
def: Do you know mr. Sherif?
wit: I did not follow it…
def: You were vice-president of Liberia. Was not he close to you?
def: The person that knew everything about the government, as an insider?
def: He was serious and important for the establishment?
def: Do you know Sherif?
wit: I know Sherif, it is a popular name in Liberia. I do not know Sherif and he does not know me.
def: White Flower, it is a residence where you often abided?
wit: No, No… I do not know him.
def: Do you know ZigZag Marzah? Are you aware that he gave evidence? You listened with care to his evidence did not you?
wit: Yes, I listened to his testimony.
witness to judge: Your honour I want to use the restroom. I am not well, I took some medication. But I can go alone.
Witness leaves Court room for several minutes.
The examination continues after witness returns in Court room.
judge: If you are comfortable, we will continue.
wit: Thank you, honours.
judge: Please proceed.
def: Can you help me please with how you came to speak to the prosecutors of this case?
wit: How was I approached? I was approached at my residence with some investigators from the special courts. That is how it all started.
def: Can you please help us, when was that?
wit: That was in … I can call the events, but the date will come later.
def: I will help you, I can explain the reason for putting up this document (shows document to witness). This document contains the dates that you were seen by the office of the prosecutor. I want to use the document as a matrix to set out the chronology of you visiting the prosecutor. Do you understand?
wit: Yes, I understand I am listening.
wit: The first payment that was made to you is on 31 August 2006. You were first interviewed on 26 September 2006. You were seen again on 6 October 2006, then 30 October 2006 you were provided with a letter of immunity from the prosecution. Okay?
wit: Yes, I am listening. I recall them.
def: That letter reads as folows:”Dear Moses Blah, as Special Court for Sierra Leone I would like to inform you that I have not laid any criminal charges or will not be laid upon you with any criminal charges. I hope this letter will help you…”
wit: I remember…
def: Were there any discussions with the prosecution prior to the letter being send?
def: You never asked for assurance that you would not be charged?
wit: No, I did not ask. I did not speak to the prosecutor, only to the investigators. They asked me all kind of questions on the NPFL, presidency and me and other people. After that the letter came. I would have to answer all kind of questions in court. He said: you are not in court now but you will have to answer questions, if you are court. During the NPFL fighting, how the NPFL came in being. Some questions I cannot tell you now.
def: Were you afraid of being charged?
wit: No, I was not afraid.
def: Why is a letter like this sent to you? To put your mind at ease, if you were not concerned?
wit: What happens was…you cannot know my position. I must have been concerned. This question came about because of my involvement with Taylor. I wanted to know what position I would have when I would go to Court. I was not concerned.
def: Did the letter came as a surprise to you?
wit: I was not surprised. But did not expect the letter. But I took it as it was.
def: Was the letter unsolicited by you?
def: You did not request it?
def: It came as complete surprise to you and landed on your doorstep?
wit: Yes, it landed on my doorstep. It came as it came, I did not request it.
def: But you were very grateful?
wit: I do not understand…?
def: Thank you very much mr Johnson…?
wit: No, I was not expecting it. It was a surprise. I was not associated with anything that could give me any problems with them. That is how it came.
def: You were not involved in any criminality with Taylor, were you?
def: From ’90 – mid ’98 until 2003, almost two decades you were not involved in any crminal activity?
wit: No, not that I know of.
def: Equally would it be fair to say that being a Baptist as you are, you would not want to be associated with anyone involved in criminal activities?
wit: Well, I do not know I have a lot of friends and family, how would I know that they do any criminial activities? I am not an investigator.
def: For 20 years you were not involved or associated in any criminal activities?
wit How would I know, I am not investigator. I would not want to be associated with a criminal. But how do you know?
def: You would have put as much distance from yourself and any criminal activities, would not you?
wit: Yes, that is what I would do, if I knew you were involved in a criminal activity, I would take distance from you.
def: Let me get the chronology right. 26 September 2006, 6 October, 30 October the letter came. There were two payments totalling US$ 100. In 2006, did you still have your family in Nimba-County?
wit: That is the farm that I usually visit.
def: But you were taken the ram that you take from Burkina Faso?
wit: The ram died.
def: That is too bad because I wanted to ask is the ram grandfather?
wit: It was an old ram. He is dead.
def: So you are at the farm and you were shopping in Monrovia?
wit: Yes. I have a shop and my wife has a boutique. My own shop is in Monrovia. It is not far from my house.
def: Are you for Liberian standards a very wealthy man?
wit: No I am a very poor man. My wife would not have a boutique as first lady of Liberia and I would not sell things behind a counter.
def: I would like to put these payments you received in context. 50 US$ is 3000 Liberian dollars. The average wage in Liberia is 1 US$ per day… So when you received 100 US$, that is a lot of money for Liberian standards?
def: You also got US$ 450 on 1 November 2007 and 24 November 2007 another US$ 100. Is that substantial for Liberian standards?
wit: Yes. I was sick sick, I am sitting here, I am not well. I am suffering of the weather and I have not been well for a long time ago.
def: That payment was made to you in order to let you travel to your country to obtain documents? What documents were they?
wit: It was not my property. I was sent to achieve a document that was questioned. I would look at the document to answer the questions and not mislead the investigation. I was going to friends to get the document, my house was too far away. I had my back-up jeep and drove to my villa.
def: What kind of documents were they?
wit: They were NPFL, National Patriotic Front. They were kept at my farm in a safe place. I must go up country to bring them to Monrovia.
def: Was it a large quantity of documents?
def: Did you give the documents to the investigator?
wit: They were personal documents.
judge: You did not answer the question: did you give the documents to the investigator?
wit: I did not.
def: So you did not give them. Are they still in Liberia?
def: Do the documents refer to your involvement in the NPFL. Are they important? Would you be prepared to show them to me?
wit: Yes, but I do not have them here.
def: I am patient. Could someone go to Liberia to go get them?
wit: These are my personal documents. Why would anyone request for them?
def: To obtain the truth.
wit: These are my documents. They are not for the NPFL or anyone else. If I die my children will have to look through it.
def: Is there written in the documents?
def: Did you make personal notes during the NPFL?
def: During the revolution?
def: Notes regarding Khadaffi?
def: No notes on the transaction that came with the ram?
def: No notes on how to discipline the NPFL soldiers when you were a general?
wit: Some of the documents have to do with that. But they are not the documents kept by the NPFL. They are my documents. You will have to subpoena me for this.
def: No we do not need to subpoena you for this, I am asking you if you can bring the documents.
wit: Everything I am saying here, I can repeat. I am not making up stories. During the investigation I would tell them I can tell anything that is in the documents. You can open my head and use an electroninc machine to see what is in my head.
def: I am taking it as you do not want me to see the documents.
wit: These are my personal documents and I dont think you need them to see. These are no documents for the courts but notes I took from time to time. These are no documents that I have to present in court. There is nothing in the documents I would not say in court.
def: 8 ,9 ,7 , 10 13, 15, 16, 18, (probably referring to tabs in the document) there is a total of US$ 5,000 spend on medical treatment on you. If the office of the prosecutor or the prosecutor has not stepped in. How would you have paid for it?
wit: I am capable of paying my bills.
def: You are perfectly capable of taking care of medical treatment? So the money you got from the prosecution-office was meant for savings?
wit: No, it was for my medical bills.
def: What would have happened if you did not use them for medical bills? You would have kept the money in your pocket?
wit: The money was given to me in order to get medical treatment. I am poor but I can go to the hospital myself, I am capable of that.
def: You are better off than other Liberians?
wit: Well, it depends. Some Liberians are living a better live or go to a better school and can eat every day.
def: That trip to Abidjan, what was your reason for doing so?
wit: I was doing a check up with my doctor. He had electronic machines that we do not have in Monrovia.
def: Who paid the airline ticket?
wit: It was paid by the special court. They would pay at the doctor’s.
def: you received US$ 132 that was transferred in Liberia to 8000 Liberian dollars. That was paid to you in a period of one year. That is a lot of money.
wit: I have a medical bill I can show you, that I also paid US$ 900 to hospital.
def: We also know that on the 1st of November you were gaining US$ 450 that day.
def: Well I have records, you do. You received US$ 60 (…) on the third day another US$ 60, the 4th interview you received again another US$ 100. At the beginning of 2007 you received US$ 220, do you remember that?
wit: Yes I remember. There were for bills for medical treatment. What shall I say, the receipts for the pharmacy, they paid for it. I do not know what the questions are about.
def: Lets move on to item 8 on page two, the 22nd of February 2007 you receives US$ 217 and again you were interviewed. Do you remember that?
wit: That was the day I went to hospital and paid the remaining on the balance that I had to pay.
def: on page three on 26th of April 2007 over that period when no interviews were conducted, your medical bills were covered and you had assistance for your family. Why were you receiving these payments but you were not seen by the prosecutors and not being interviewed.
wit: Except for the family assistance and interviews you are correct. But I had to protect my home and environment. That had to be paid for.
def: Like a witness support system, See page four from the record. Only on 5 October and 9 October you were interviewed two times. While throughout May and January 2008 you were provided with this level of support when there is limited contact with the prosecutor.
wit: I was always in contact with the prosecutor. Because there were serious threats. They would call me. We had a lot of bills and security that has to be paid for. I did not have money for security personal at the time.
def: Starting with item 116 on page four. A payment on 7 January 2008 of US$ 2100 was made.
wit: This is for a treatment. I was treated in hospital for ten days. I was almost paralysed.
def: On page five, there are numbers of payments for transport, family, transport throughout January this year. You said: “I do not want to go to the Hague. You have to subpoena me.” So you are reluctant to appear in court?
wit: No no, I told you that the money was paid when I decided that I would come to The Hague. There are families taking care of my farm. This money is paid for reasons for hospital.
def: Would they pay for school fees?
wit: No, no school fees.
def: When did you first become aware of the indictment that has been laid upon Taylor?
wit: It was in (…) when the former president was called for a peace conference.
def: In 2003?
def: Were you surprised?
wit: Yes, I was surprised, I was not expecting it, he has been my boss.
def: Were you afraid for a similar indictment?
wit: No I had no cause, becasue I was not in the country and I did not do anything to anybody in the country. I had a boss and was strictly under order of the president.
def: As a vice-president were you allowed to give any orders?
wit: No, all the orders came from the president. I did not give any orders.
def: We want to understand the situation. You were nearly a figurehead?
wit: No, a figurehead was not to become a vice-president. You can not say that to me. Only the president gave orders. The vice-president does not give orders. The president takes the blame, he takes the responsibility.
def: Would it be fair to conclude that you had no authority whatsoever?
wit: I had authority. But state orders were the sole responsibility of the president.
def: Who did you have authority over, if anyone?
wit: I had authority over the House of Senate. I could call them if necessary. But I did not have the right to vote. I had a limited job anyway.
def: Please help me, why did you take the position?
wit: Well, you are in second command as vice-president.
def: But you were not in command of anything?
witness to the judge: Sorry your honour I have to go…I have to about…
Witness leaves Court room.
Examination continues after witness returns in Court.
judge: if you are comfortable, we will continue.
def: Are you well enough to continue?
def: I want to change the topic now and I would like you to trace with me your involvement with the NPFL. Now, so we can put things in perspective, the reason why I am adopting this system to you is because of the high position you had in Liberia. Do you understand this?
wit: Yes, I understand.
def: Let’s start with a few statistics. At the time the conflict began in 1989 the population in Liberia was about 2,5 million. Is that correct?
wit: Yes, that is correct.
def: As a result of the civil war from 1989-1996 and errupted in 2000-2003, that something like 1,2 million Liberians were displaced from their homes?
def: That is 50 % of the Liberian population, do you agree?
def: Almost a half million refugees were in Guinea . 300.000 in Cote d’Ivoire and 50.000 in Ghana. Do you agree?
wit: Well, I remember Liberians being displaced all over Africa.
def: Further statistics: some 200.000 people lost there lives out of a population of 2,5 million. That is a lot of people dead is not it?
def: In the context that this conflict took place, some of 20 % of the Liberians were illiterate?
def: I am still trying to look at the context that this conflict erupted. There was a bloody fight on 12 April 1980. There was the killing of the former president Tolbert and his guard by a party. There were also 13 members of the government executed . Do you remember?
def: This party was the first leader coming from the ambiguous population. Those government and army were dominated by that ethnic group. In taking power, Doe established a problem in the Liberian society. Would you agree?
def: Not to point a finer point on it. But his period as president were one of the most brutal and corrupt in Liberian history. Would you agree?
def: Was it brutal?
def: Was it corrupt?
def: The most notable attempts to get rid of Doe was lead by your cousin Thomas Quiwonkpa.
def: Your cousin fled to Liberia and returned in 1985 and tried to coup Doe?
def: Over 500 people lost their lives during that coup, did not they? Those Liberian armies carried out a rain of terror in Nimba-county, did they?
def: A lot of brutal terror was carried out, further a racial divide by the government and the Gio’s and the Mano’s.
def: Have you suffered any personal grief?
def: Your wife was murdered by those armies and you had to fled the country to Cote d’Ivoir, leaving all your possessions.
def: Your only way to go back was by taking up a gun and you resolved by becoming a revolutionary and you realized that you had to fight your way back into Liberia to get to Doe?
def: You knew that it would require a revolution to get rid of it?
def: Do you recall in 1985 there was an distinctive corrupt election held by Doe and condemned by those American backers. I am asking this to understand your emotional involvement.
def: You were born on 18 April 1947 in Toweh County. That means in 1985 you were 38 years old. By having fled you spend 2,5 years in the wilderness. 1,5 years in Libya and further a year in Burkina Faso, how were you feeling? Just to understand your emotional involvement.
wit: The feeling was uncertain, I did not know where I was going and what was going to happen. It was terrible.
def: Did you still have relatives in Nimba-county during that period?
def: Did you loose touch with your family because you were scattered?
def: How did you feel you were separated of your family because of Doe?
wit: I was angry and suffering as well.
def: So that we understand that we know the thoughts going through your head. do you know what you wanted to establish in Liberia.
def: At that stage of your life, in your late thirties. Were you able to die for in order to establish such society in Liberia?
def: I now would like to ask you al little about that period in Libya. You have told us in due course the numbers of Liberians in that camp grew to 180. The Liberian continent was larger than Sierra Leone and the Gambian continent. The leaders of the continent, like Charles Taylor, did not actually become involved in the training did they, for example did they live on the base?
wit: He supervised the base from outside the base.
def: He did not become physically involved in the training, like you or Benjamin Yeaten did, stripping down guns?
wit: Sometimes he would come to the training or to the camp.
def: Did he not live in Tripoli in a apartment?
wit: He stayed most of the time in the camp when he was in the camp supervising or seeing how the men were doing.
def: MFI 16 roster of mens. The training in Libya were called Special Forces. Later when they entered Liberia they had full authority and answered to no one?
wit: That was said in the camp. Taylor was the leader of the revolution and they would not take orders from no one else than Taylor. It was not called special forces, but Junior Commanders. They have got trainers. Small Boys were not in full control. There were people taking instructions from Taylor, he gave instructions. You were punished if you did not do so. Taylor was the sole commander in chief of this revolution. You can only take instructions from him, if you don not, you be in serious trouble.
def: Special Forces would have certain authority once they would go back to Liberia? Was this agreed in the camp?
wit: Yes, this was agreed. There were rules and regulations. You would have a commander, he would tell you what to do. It was an organisation under control of Taylor.
def: The camp was an old military American training base?
def: And all the groups Gambian, Sierra Leone and Liberians would train together?
wit: No, the Gambians finished their training and went back to Gambia to overthrow the government. they would come back to teach us, to lecture us because they have been there already.
def: And were there battalions?
wit: Yes, you had your own battalion. Battalion 1 is the Liberian Battalion. There were no trainings taken together.
def: Like Taylor, did dr. Manneh did not live in the base?
wit: No, he was living in the Butaba camp and Burkina Faso.
def: The leader was Abdullah Bah? Right?
def: He was he tall and slim, black man?
wit: Yes, I remember him.
def: Sankoh was a little T-boy?
wit: Yes, Abdullah Bah was in Libya and was a professor and teaching at the university. He lived in Tripoli. He was not a stable person. One time he was in the camp and next time he was in Liberia.
def: Did you Sankoh as a leader?
wit: I do. Sankoh was known as a leader to me, when there was a visit in Togo. I call in mr Sankoh, he tells me: “I am the leader of the revolution. You should salute me.” I said: “I am sorry, you are the commander in chief.”
wit: Yes, he was well dressed and looked important.
def: Did the naturally Liberians and Sierra Leonean become long term friends?
wit: What do you mean with long term?
def: Well, even after leaving the camp they would stay in touch? They became friends.
def: Like long friends?
wit: I do not know, they were friends. They were together, eat and play together.
def: Another detail: the Liberians left the camp before the Sierra Leonean?
wit: Yes, we left and were concerned about my group leaving to come to Liberia. I do not know who left first.
def: But the Sierra Leonean were still in camp?
wit: Yes, we left earlier.
def: You were required to take an oath when you came to Liberia?
wit: The oath I remember was in Tripoli before graduation, before the leader of the revolution came. If you did not take the oath you would be punished. We took the oath that you would be loyal to the revolution in the camp.
def: Whilst in the camp, a group of men, tried to organize a coup against Taylor? That group included: Prince Johnston
def: Samual Vani
def: Cooper Miller
def: Augustin Right
def: Oliver Vani
def: Yegbeh Dbogn
def: Anthony Mean
def: Charles Tawon
def: Sam Lato.
def: Who were involved in the organization of the coup?
wit: The ones I answered to as ‘yes’.
def: They were planning to kill Taylor and take over the NPFL.
wit: The name was not NPFL at that time. The intention at the time was not to kill. Taylor was not at the base for a long time. He was in Liberia. Since Taylor has gone out, they thought he deserted us, we do not have a leader. Cooper Miller decided that he should be the leader of the Revolutionary of Liberia. That is how he decided.
The Judge Adjourns the session to 12:00 a.m.