August 22, 2008
Defense Counsel Terry Munyard continued his cross-examination of Witness TF1-375 (not being the witness who testified yesterday, but a witness who started to give evidence in June 2008) this morning. Munyard addressed the issue of the witness’ nationality. Although the witness is Liberian, he would often introduce himself as Sierra Leonean (he was born in Sierra Leone but claimed not to know the country well).
Involvement with the Prosecution
The Witness discussed his first meeting with Robert Hotston (of the Prosecution at the Special Court) who told him he was from the Special Court, and the Witness was surprised. A friend of the Witness, through whom the Prosecution had contacted the Witness, never mentioned the Witness having to be called to speak at the Taylor case, only that someone from Ivory Coast was around and wanted to meet him. The Witness thought it would be Benjamin Yeaten, or at least “one of his people”.
The Witness confirmed having gone to Ivory Coast, before September 2005, for one day only when there was a problem between Bockarie and the Liberian government following the death of Yeaten’s brother. That was in 2002 as far as the Witness could recall. The Witness had expected to meet in Ivory Coast with a then-rebel leader for Ivory Coast together with Benjamin Yeaten.
Income, employment and the Sirleaf campaign
The Witness was involved in the election campaign of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. In particular, as a voluntary youth organiser (the Witness claims not to have been paid but later contradicts this by stating that he did indeed receive some payments for this work, as follows). He used to receive some money to purchase petrol for his motorbikes or other necessities involved in the work, but not salaried as such. The Witness had accomodations, which he paid for himself, but during the campaign period he stayed at a hotel which was paid for by the Sirleaf campaign and he occasionally received food money. The Witness confirmed that he was also making money from other sources while he worked for the Sirleaf campaign. The Witness had a house in Ganta, Liberia, from which he received rental income. He also had three motorbikes being ridden for him in Ganta, and he received money from the Sierra Leonean Embassy.
The Defense confirmed that he was making money also from the Prosecution, but the Witness referred to it dismissively as “pocket change”. The Witness was not willing to disclose to the Defense what his overall income amounted to. The Defense pressed the witness to clarify but the Witness explained that he did not have the figures available to calculate the overall figure but confirmed that he was making money.
Each motorbike got him about 20 USD per day, and he had three bikes so make roughly 60 USD a day. He was not riding the bikes, he had people helping him, and whom he paid for their work every day of the week except Saturdays when his staff took time to maintain the bikes, for which they were not paid. His house rental income averaged 300 USD for 6 months, so 600 USD for a year. In addition, the Prosecution gave him travelling money and occasionally a food stipend, though they affirmed to the Witness that they were not “paying him” and the Witness would not ask them for money, though they would sometimes give him 50 USD or 20 USD but all the while saying that they were not “paying him”. From Monrovia to Ganta it was 10 USD each way, plus 30 Liberian dollars for other travel. The Defense highlighted that this was more than enough to eat – pointing to the price of pizza in Monrovia which the witness asserted cost more than 25 USD. The Witness confirmed that the money from his bike rentals was insufficient to eat in Monrovia, but food was cheaper in Ganta.
Hotston gave the witness 50 USD, and the Prosecution told him the money they gave him was “not a payment”. The Witness confirmed that his work on the Sirleaf campaign did not prevent him from making money from his business, and that he was also in demand in relation to his work in the campaign. The Witness gave the Prosecution a false name prior to being arrested by the National Security Agency (NSA), whereupon his real identity was discovered.
Subsequent co-operation with the Prosecution
When Varmuyan Sherif brought the witness to the Boulevard Hotel (in Monrovia), he introduced the witness to the Prosecution by his nickname, not by his ‘real’ name. The Witness’ second meeting with the Prosecution was arranged through one of the Witness’ friends when the Witness was in Ganta. He was told that “white people had come around” and he told his friend that he should give those people his telephone number rather than come around to his house. After all the effort made by the Prosecution to find the Witness for a second interview, the Witness expected that he would be sought after a third time. The Witness was not expecting to testify against Charles Taylor.
The Defense asked whether the Witness was at the time recruiting mercenaries for Ivory Coast. The Witness responded by laughing, which the judges highlighted as an important consideration in the Witness’ demeanour. The Witness then asserted that he was not recruiting mercenaries.
The Witness attested that he does not understand any good reason for his arrest in February 2006, and noted that he felt his access to justice was compromised at the time. The Witness was released when Charles Taylor was sent to Freetown. The Witness confirmed that he gave wrong answers in the first two interviews with the Prosecution, and confirmed that he only started cooperating fully upon his release once Taylor was transferred to Freetown.
The Witness explained that he stopped campaigning for Sirleaf once he was arrested. The campaign organizers left him out of further work. The witness stated that he was being pushed away from the Sirleaf campaign by the government as a result of his involvement with Charles Taylor. The Witness confirmed that two other people suffered the same fate. He consulted his family about whether to testify at the Special Court, and explained that he decided to testify on his own accord not under duress and that it was not dependent on being paid by the Prosecution for his participation. He accepted money, he explained, as maintenance money while in Freetown for himself and his family, although he claims the money was ‘small’. The witness moved to Freetown in August 2006.
Security risks: protection of the witness
The Prosecution clarified the reasons for which some issues could not be dealt with in open session, and why the witness felt discussing these issues would put him at risk. The Prosecution proposed to explain in private session the reasons why the witness could not address certain issues for security reasons. The Court ruled, however, that the questions should first be asked, at which point the Prosecution could use their option to object to the questions as they come. The Prosecution noted that some of the security-sensitive information would be contained in the questions, thus compromising the witness’ security. The Defense, however, was instructed by the bench to continue its line of questioning.
When asked why he laughed when asked about Vice-President Moses Blah, the witness explained that it was because although he carried the title, he did not ‘act like’ a Vice-President. When asked by the Prosecution, “Did you see Moses Blah around the time Sam Bockarie was killed”, the Witness explained that “I have a problem with this Sam Bockarie business, in open session”. The Prosecution then repeated his request to put his objections to this line of questioning on record to the Court in private session. After conferring on this issue, the Court ruled that the witness should be taken out of the Court on the basis that there were matters to be dealt with in his absence. The Court then ruled that the proceedings should move into private session to deal with these matters while ensuring the protection of the witness.
The trial will resume on Monday 9.30 a.m.