10:00am: Court resumed in open session and defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths QC continued the cross-examination of witness TF1-579. Counsel asked several questions relating to the witness’s various assignments, the alleged execution of some NPFL commanders, the DDR process in Liberia and NPFL conflicts with ULIMO fighters.
Counsel asked the witness about the time he started his training as an NPFL fighter. The witness said he commenced his training some time in 1990. Witness was not sure about the month and so he said it was in early 1990. Defense counsel stated that the reason why he was concerned about the month is because the training camp where the witness claims he was trained was only opened in July 1990. When asked whether he was trainied by Joe Tua, the witness said that Tua was an artillery specialist and since he was not trainied in the use of arilleray, Tua did not train him. The witness said that after his training, he was made a bodyguard to Oliver Vanny and assigned to Buchanan. After Buchanan, he said he moved to Bomi Hills. He said that during this time, he fought against the AFL and Prince Johnson’s INPFL. He said that while at Bomi Hills, he met Foday Sankoh. His first encounter with Sankoh, he said was at Gbarngha. He said he also saw Taylor in Gbarngha. The witness said that after Bomi Hills, he moved with his commander Oliver Vanny to Maryland. Defense counsel suggested that Vanny was never assigned to Maryland and was always at Bomi Hills but the witness argued that he travelled with vanny to Maryland in a blue starlet car. He said they were in Maryland for like a month or two and then Bomi Hills came under attack, so they went back there.
Defense counsel suggested that Vanny deserted Bomi Hills and it was over-run by the ULIMO fighters. He said that was why Vanny was executed. The witness argued that Vanny did not abandon Bomi Hills.. He said that when vanny left him in Maryland to go to Bomi Hills, he did not see him again until he heard about his execution. The witness said that after vanny’s execution, he went into hiding for two weeks. Defense counsel suggested that that amounted to AWOL but the witness disagreed with counsel.
Counsel asked the witness whether he heard of a group called Black Gadafa. Defense counsel suggested that it was an anti-Taylor group. The witness responded he never saw any members of Black Gadafa but herad of the group.
Execution of Oliver Vanny and Other NPFL Commanders
Counsel asked the witness about the execution of certain NPFL commanders on orders of Taylor. Counsel asked whether there were any court matials in Gbarngha and the witness said yes. Counsel asked if Oliver Vanny was tried by court matial before his execution. The witness said no such trial took place. He said that from the task force office, he was executed without trial. Defense counsel put it to the witness that Vanny was tried by court matial before his execution. Witness also said he heard about the arrest of De Gbon. He said he heard that De Gbon and Vanny were arrested and executed together. He said that a commander called One Man One was also arrested and executed after Vanny and others had been executed. According to the witness, Anthony Menkunabe and Sam Lato were also arrested and executed. Defense counsel put it to the witness that these men were arrested, tried and executed for forming the Black Gadafa group which was an anti-Taylor group. The witness disagreed with counsel.
Counsel also asked the witness about the death of Cascious Jacobs. The witness said that Jacobs was accused of selling out Gbarngha to the enemy (ULIMO) and that he was executed without trial. He said that Taylor gave orders for him to be executed along with other members of the Gio tribe. Defense told the witness that prosecution were trying to paint Taylor as a terrorist who killed his own fighters without putting them to trial.
Assignment as Bodyguard to Charles Taylor
The witness testified that he bacame a mansion guard at the executive mansion in Gbarngha in 1993. He said he was assigned to guarding either the gate or the fence of the mansion. After the 1997 elections, which saw Taylor become president of Liberia, the completed an SSS training and then moved to Monrovia. He said he was assigned to Taylor’s motorcade as guard. Defense counsel questioned the witness about how close he would be to Taylor. The witness said there were occassions when he was involved in close protection for Mr. Taylor. Defense counsel showed the witness a photograph of Taylor at Roberts International Airport in Monrovia. In the said photo, Taylor is surrounded by guards whose positions were in the shape of a diamond. The witness described the roles played by the various gurads who surrounded Taylor. The witness said that there were times when he was in the same position as the guards in the photo. Defense put it to the witness that he never performed that role because all the guards in that position were over 6 feet and taller than Mr. Taylor. Defense had the witness’s height measured and it showed the witness was less than 6 feet tall. The witness insisted that there were people shorter than him who sometimes performed the same role. Counsel showed the witness two more photographs with guards round Mr. Taylor and all of them being taller than him. The witness responded that many other guards had different photographs and that he also had his own photograph while he served Mr. Taylor in that position. Counsel said that over 50 photographs shown to the witness by the prosecution, not a single one showed the witness performing that role. Counsel suggesteed that the witness was never close to Mr. Taylor. The witness disagreed with counsel. He said that he took the VIP training for such close protection guard and was given a certificate and identity card. He said that he also received a salary of $250 as a member of the SSS. He, however, agreed with counsel that close protection guards earned $400 as their salary. The witness explained that he was not assigned as a close protection guard and so did not get that salary but that on occassions when they needed services, they would ask him to perform that role. The witness agreed with counsel that he was never in the same room with Mr. Taylor but that he had conversations with him on many occassions. He said that he had no conversation with Taylor about diamonds from Sierra Leone but he did have such conversations with his own commander.
Disarmament in Liberia
Counsel asked the witness where he was in Liberia when the disarmament started. The witness said that he was in Monrovia. He said he can’t remember when the disarmament process started. Defense suggested to the witness that the process started in 1996. When asked about when the process ended, the witness responded that he cant say when it was but he knew that the process went on until after the election of Mr. Taylor as president. He said that the disarmament was a continious process. He said that there was a disarmament process even when Moses Blah succeeded Mr. Taylor as president of Liberia. He said that ULIMO and NPFL fighters were all disarmed.
Court adjourned for mid-morning break.