Morning Session: 81st Prosecution Witness TF1-579 Commences His Testimony

Wednesday November 5, 2008.

10:00am: Court resumed in open session and the Prosecution led its 81st Witness TF1-579. The witness, a Liberian linkage/insider witness was led by Prosecution Counsel Nicholas Koumjian and he testified in Liberian English. The witness testified with voice and image distortion. When the witness commenced his testimony, the court went into a brief private session for the purpose of putting the witness’s name and basic information on record. When court resumed in open session, prosecution counsel cautioned the witness to be careful with his responses to questions as his identity needed to be safeguarded. The witness stated that he went to school upto the 10th Grade level and that he can speak English, Gio and Liberian English.

Witness Joins The NPFL in 1990

The witness testified that he was in Liberia when the rebel war started in 1989. As the rebels were advancing on towns in Liberia, the witness said that he moved to Ivory Coast to escape from the war. While in Ivory Coast, the witness said that he saw Special Forces members of the NPFL who encouraged him, together with other Liberians in Ivory Coast to join the revolution as the Krahn people were killing the Gios in Liberia. The witness said that he left Ivory Coast and went back to Liberia. The witness said that he went to the training base at Gborpleh in order to join the NPFL. At the training base, he said he saw SBUs, Special Forces and other soldiers. He said that there were also Gambians, Burkinabes and Ivorians at the training base. One of the persons he met at the training base was Benjamin Yeaten. The witness’s training lasted for three months and upon graduation, he was taken to Tapeta. While at Tapeta, the witness said that he met Oliver Vanny and he became bodyguard to him.

Foday Sankoh Planned the Invasion of Sierra Leone from Liberia

The witness testified about first meeting Foday Sankoh in Liberia. He said that he first saw Sankoh at Bomi Hills, when Sankoh held a meeting to plan the deployment of his fighters to Sierra Leone. He said that at the meeting, Sankoh cautioned that he did not want any lootings or killing of civilians among his fighters. He said that most of Sankoh’s fighters at that time were Liberians and that Taylor provided support to them. The witness said that after the meeting, the fighters arrived the following day and were taken to Bo Waterside, on the Liberian/Sierra Leonean border. He said the main targets of the fighters headed for Sierra Leone were to hit Gendema and advance towards Zimmi. The witness said that for sometime, he used to see troop movements from Bomi Hills to Sierra Leone and vice versa.

Execution of Oliver Vanny; Defense Raises Objection

The witness testified that when enemy forces captured Gbarnga, Taylor blamed Oliver Vanny for not securing the ground and as a result ordered his execution. The witness also spoke of the execution of Casciuous Jacobs when Gbarnga was captured by enemy forces. Defense counsel Morris Anyah raised an objection on grounds that the testimony concerning the execution of these individuals was irrelevant on basis that they had no link with the events in Sierra Leone for which Taylor is charged and that they occured way before the time period of the indictment. Prosecution counsel Nicholas Koumjian responded that the issues were relevant as they are meant to show the accused persons behaviour in killing his fighters who did not do what he wanted them to do. Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty ruled that the questions will be allowed under Rule 93a of the Rules of Evidence and that their probative value will be determined by the Chamber.

Witness is Recruited as Member of the Special Security Services (SSS)

The witness testified that he later took assignment with Benjamin Yeaten. He said that Yeaten sent him for SSS training in Gbarnga. He said that after his graduation, he was assigned to Taylor’s Mansion in Gbarnga. He said this was in 1992. The witness was shown two photographs in which he identified Yeaten, Sylvester Williams and Daniel Tamba, aka Jungle. The witness said that there were SBUs also working at the Mansion. The witness said that under Yeaten’s command, Sankoh was given a house at Sugar Hill, a place close to Yeaten’s and Taylor’s houses. He said that was the second time he met Sankoh. The witness said that he was later deployed to Monrovia where he fought against ULIMO-J fighters. He said that when Taylor became President, he became part of Taylor’s motorcade as a security. The witness gave an explanation of the structure of the SSS. He said that those who went through the full SSS training were paid a salary of $250, the Special Bodyguards in the SSS received $450 and those SSS members who did not take full training received $50 plus a bag of rice. He said that the commander of the Special Bodyguards Unit was called Senegalese.

Court adjourned for mid-morning break.