Noon (12:30 minute delay in video and audio): Court is back in session following the mid-morning break.
Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp continues his direct examination of Charles Taylor’s former vice president, Moses Blah. Blah is now testifying in Liberian English through an interpreter. Note the following is not an official transcript.
[Before testimony begins, Prosecutor Rapp provides spelling for Mahare River]
Pros: Earlier this morning, you mentioned several people who were executed on Taylor’s orders, did you conduct any of the investigations of those persons who were executed?
Wit: No, I did not have the authority to do so.
Pros: Do you know who would have conducted the investigations?
Wit: Executive Mansion Unit including President Tilo and Benjamin Yeaten
Pros: Do you know what investigations consist of?
Wit: I do not know because Benjamin Yeaten does not report to me. Benjamin became so powerful that he would also conduct an investigation but I did not have the authority to question him.
Pros: How long were you inspector general?
Wit: From 1991 to 1997
Pros: When did you become Ambassador?
Wit: 1997. This was the third year of Taylor’s presidency.
Pros: When did you become VP?
Pros: Was your position as inspector general an active position when Taylor became President?
Wit: No, everything slowed down when he became President
Pros: As inspector general, what area did you spend most of your time?
Wit: The southern part of Liberia including Maryland and Sinoe.
Pros: Let me go back to the Gambians. You mentioned General Jackson who died saving Taylor’s life. Why was he a general?
Wit: When you are aid-to-camp to the President, then you are called a General
Pros: How did you meet Jackson?
Wit: I met him in 1989 with his brother.
Pros: You mentioned that Dr. Manneh became so powerful that he was ordering others. Who was he ordering?
Wit: our soilders
Pros: Was he investigated?
Wit: Not that I know of
Pros: Do recall any other Gambians that were in Liberia at this time?
Wit: There was lots of them. A fellow who called himself Yenk Smithe.
Pros: Was that his true name?
Wit: No, that was a pure Liberian name. I do not know how he got that name. He was a Gambian.
Pros: How was a Gambian a foreign ambassador in Liberia?
Wit: I don’t know.
Pros: Were there any other Gambians appointed in Taylor’s government?
Wit: There were many some died during the war. One guy was called Rebel but I forgot his actual name.
Pros: When did you first see Mosquito (aka Sam Bockarie)?
Wit: At the back of Taylor’s residence. He was introduced to me by Benjamin Yeaten in his house, but I acutally saw him first at the Nigerian house.
Pros: Did you know why Mosquito was there?
Pros: You said that Mosquito was there with his group. Where was he with his group?
Wit: When I met him at Benjamin’s house, I met him alone. However, there were 10 other people there and they were speaking Creole.
Pros: Did you see any other Sierre Leoneans or official visitors in Liberia during Taylor’s Presidency?
Wit: They were always there.
Pros: Did Benjamin ever discuss the Sierra Leoneans that were with him?
Pros: Do you know what the Sierra Leoneans did for Benjamin Yeaten?
Wit: I saw them with him, but I don’t know what they were doing with him.
Pros: Were any Sierra Leoneans invovled in the war in Liberia?
Wit: Yes, I saw them fighting against the rebels and push them toward Guinea.
Pros: Did the group of Sierra Leoneans have a name?
Wit: RUF led by Mosquito who were fighting Lurd and Mudel.
Pros: Did Mosquito and his group go into any other country?
Wit: I saw them coming out of Cote D’ivoire in May 2002 to Liberia. They brought women, children, cars, ammunitions and arms.
Pros: Before we leave the Sierra Leonenans, you talked about Mosquito staying in the Nigerian house. Do you know where he stayed thereafter?
Def: Harrison Karanwea’s house in Cocopa plantation but the men stayed in Secplea. Harrrison was a long-time friend of mine and we are of the same ethnic background.
Pros: Who was the RUF fighting?
Wit: RUF was assisting us to fight the Lurd to go back to Guinea from Sierra Leone.
Pros: Did the RUF go into Guinea?
Pros: As VP did you take any official trips on behalf of your government?
Wit: Yes, I went to South Africa to represent the gov’t because Taylor could not go due to the attacks from Lurd and Mudel.
Pros: Did you make any official visits to countries that are next to Liberia?
Wit: Yes, I went to Sierra Leone, because Taylor wanted me to clear up that he was not involved with the war in Sierra Leone. People were saying that Liberia was backing the war in Sierra Leone. I went to the amputee camp to see if the amputations were really happening in Sierra Leone. I saw people with no hands and no feet and I gave them money from my own pockets. I was sorry for the condition of those people.
Pros: Yesterday, you mentioned that there was a press conference that Taylor was involved in to discuss the allegations that Liberia was involved in the war in Sierra Leone. Was this before or after your visit to Freetown?
Wit: Before I went to Freetown. I went to Freetown immediately after the press conference.
Pros: Was this in the middle of your term as VP?
Wit: Yes, this was in the second year of my term.
Pros: At anytime before or after your visit to Freetown as VP, did you attend any meetings regarding the peace process in Sierra Leone.
Wit: Yes, I went to Togo where there was a peace conference to try and stop the war in Sierra Leone.
Pros: Did you have any contact with any peacekeeping force?
Pros: Were you aware of any conflicts with the peacekeepers?
Wit: I heard that there was conflicts with the peacekeepers and some of the peacekeepers were taken hostage in Sierra Leone by the RUF. After that ECOMOG wanted President Taylor to intervene and he did and instructed the RUF that the peacekeepers be brought to Monrovia and released back home.
Pros: You mentioned that Mosquito said, “you people should not worry.” Who was he speaking about?
Wit: He was talking to the fighters. Lurd was trying to enter into Liberia through Loffa county.
Pros: Did you participate in meetings to discuss the security situation?
Wit: No, but I knew there were meetings, because Taylor showed it to me. It was an ordinary sitting place. It did not have any special name.
Pros: Earlier you had described weapons being brought into Burkina Faso (sp?). What was this place?
Wit: It was highly restricted place that I was aware of because of my positions in Liberia.
Pros: Who was going to arrest Mosquito?
Wit: The government of Liberia and turn him over to the government of Sierra Leone because he was accused of killing Sierra Leoneans. I spoke with Taylor in 2003 briefly about this issue.
Pros: Did you see Mosquito after this meeting with Taylor?
Wit: Yes, a few days later I saw Mosquito, Benjamin, and others in Cocopa. I gave them food and drink.