Thursday January 15, 2009
3:00pm: Court resumed after lunch break and defense counse for Mr. Taylor, Courtenay Griffiths QC continued the cross-examination of prosecution witness Hassan Bility.
Counsel continued asking the witness about the relationship between the owner of his newspaper and ALCOP/ULIMO-K. Counsel further pointed out several inconsistencies in the witness’s present testimony compared to his statements to prosecution, his testimonies before the Dutch court and the RUF trials in Freetown.
Witness’s Relationship with ALCPM/ULIMO-K
The witness maintained his earlier statement that he does not know whether Sekou Kromah, head of the company that owned the witness’s newspaper (The Nation Newspaper) had any links with ULIMO-K. Counsel asked the witness whether he knew that Sekou Kromah was a General in ULIMO-K. The witness said he had no such knowlege. Asked whether Sekou Kromah was the National Whip of ALCOP, the witness said that was never the case. The witness denied counsel’s suggestion that he was the National Youth Chairman of ALCOP.
Counsel asked the witness whether he knew the owner of The News Newspaper. The witness said while he did not know the owner, he knew someone called Tarpeh who was in an ownership position. He said he does not know whether the newspaper was associated with any political party.
Asked about the Democrat Newspaper, the witness said that one Tom Kamara was associated with the ownership and he does not believe that paper was associated with any of the warring factions.
Asked about The Enquirer Newspaper, the witness said he only knew one of the editors called Philip Wesseh. He said the paper was objective.
Counsel referenced a report written and published with photographs that Liberian and RUF fighters were being trained in Libya. In the article, he reported that about 500 fighters were being trained in Libya. Asked whether the people trained in Libya were later transformed into the Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU), the witness said he could not tell.
After the publication of the article on the training of fighters in Libya, the witness said he was arrested by the government. Defense counsel suggested to the witness that his fourth arrest was in January 1998 and that his arrest for the Libyan article was in September 2000. The witness said he cannot recall whether he was arrested between 1998 and 2000. Counsel referenced the transcript of the witness’s testimony in the Dutch court that he was arrested for the third time in March 1998. The witness responded that he was not arrested in March 1998 and that he probably mis-spoke in the Dutch court.
The witness said he could not tell whether the ATU were trained by South Africans. On his fifth arrest in late 2000, the witness said he could not remember whether he was taken to Charles Taylor. He said that he was taken to Mr. Taylor on three occassions when he was arrested but cannot remember the specific dates. He said his last arrest was on June 24, 2002. Asked whethet he knew Fred Rindel, a South African General, the witness responded that the name rings a bell but cannot remember knowing him.
Arrest number six, he said took place in May 2001. This was on allegations that he was sending information about the situation in Liberia electronically to organizations abroad. At that time, the witness said he was working for the Analyst Newspaper. He said when he was arrested in early May, he was only released on June 3rd 2001. He said he was detained at the National Security Agency. Counsel read an email address and asked the witness whether that was the email address he used at that time. The witness denied using the said email address. He explained that the emails sent to organizations abroad contained the experiences of victims of human rights abuses in Liberia and issues relating to the militarization of the sub-region. His next arrest was in June 2002. He said he cannot remember whether he was arrested and tortured between 2001 and 2002. Defense counsel referenced the witness’s previous testimony that he was arrested and tortured in September 2001. The witness replied that this was not specifically an arrest and he does not remember saying he was arrested and tortured within this period. Counsel suggested that the witness lied in this situation. Counsel asked the witness whether his statement that he was arrested the fifth time was ever true. The witness responded that he cannot remember and that this account might have been confused with a previous arrest. He said that his statements made three years ago were based on his recollection of issues at that time. Counsel categorized his different accounts in his testimonies of his several arrests. Counsel sought to establish the inconsistencies in both accounts.
In his testimony in the Taylor trial, counsel categorized the arrests thus:
1st arrest: August 1997
2nd arrest: January 1998
3rd arrest: March 1998
4th arrest: May 2001
5th arrest: September 2001
6th arrest: February 2002
7th arrest: June 2002
In his testimony in the Dutch court, counsel categorized the arrests thus:
1st arrest: August 1997
2nd arrest: October 1997
3rd arrest: Late 1997
4th arrest: January 1998
5th arrest: May2001
6th arrest: September 2001
7th arrest: June 2002
Counsel pointed out that with this categorization, the only consistent dates of arrests in the two accounts are August 1997, January 1998, May 2001, September 2001, and June 2002.
The witness replied that his latest account of events in the Taylor trial is the correct story of his arrests.
The witness agreed with counsel’s question that he is presently writing a book titled “Journalist’s Quest Against a Dictator.” He also agreed that the last chapter of the book will recount his experience testifying in the Taylor trial. He said the book is due to come out later this year. In his statement to the prosecution, it was stated that the witness got information from other sources in writing the book. Counsel suggested to the witness that he might have changed his accounts based on information he got from other sources. The witness said that counsel’s proposition was wrong. He said he only did some more research and readings when he wanted to write his book.
Court adjourned for the day and the witness is set to continue his cross-examination tomorrow Friday January 16, 2008.