Monday January 12, 2009
Due to technical problems with the live straeming of the trial, certain portions of the witness’s testimony were not recorded in today’s session.
10:00am: After the Christmas and New Year recess, the trial of Charles Taylor resumed today Monday January 12, 2009. The judges and lawyers from both prosecution and defense exchanged Christmas and New Year courtesie among themselves before the witness was led in evidence.
Prosecution counsel Mr. Christopher Santora commenced the examination of the 85th prosecution witness, Liberian journalist Hassan Bility. In October 2004, Mr. Bility also testified againts RUF accused persons before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown. Today, he commenced his testimony against his former head of state, Charles Taylor.
In his testimony, Mr. Bility asserted that while serving as head of state of Liberia, Mr. Taylor had an indisputable record of torturing civilians. He stated that he himself personally suffered arrests and mistreatments from Taylor’s security forces for writing and publishing articles about Liberian involvement in the conflict in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Bilitay testified that he first got into trouble with Mr. Taylor in August 1997 when he wrote an editorial in his National Newspaper entitled “Who is the Judas in ECOWAS?” The editorial, he said questioned the sincerity of the Liberian government under Charles Taylor to work with other West African leaders to resolve the conflict in Sierra Leone. Mr. Bility said that upon the publication of the editorial, armed police officers, led by the former Assistant Director of Police Sahr Gborlie stormed his office with Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) and other deadly weapons. He said he was taken to the headquarters of Taylor’s National Patriotic Party where he was seriously warned by Taylor himself. He said that Taylor warned him to stop publishing stories in his newspaper that would undermine his government and expose him to ridicule. He said Taylor told him that whatever relationship he had with fighters in Sierra Leone was his personal business.
Mr. Bility told the court that he was arrested for the second time when he wrote an article in his National Newspaper entitled “In Sierra Leone, Who is Government Supporting, Junta or Democracy?” He said that the article questioned why the Liberian government was not represented in Nigeria for talks held by West African leaders to resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone. The witness said that he was arretsed and beaten by police officers using gun butts, battons and other materials. Asked if he knew the police officers by name, the witness said he only recognized their faces.
Mr. Bility testified that he suffered a total of six arrests, during which he was tortured by state security officers for publishing articles that the Taylor government found offensive. Among the articles he published were “Police-ECOMOG Clash”, which refered to a fight between the Liberian National Police and ECOMOG soldiers in Liberia. He said he also wrote another article entitled “Good or Evil”, which questioned the government’s state of emergency powers. The witness said he also wrote another article which he sent to Amnesty International about the sexual abuse of Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia.
Mr. Bility said that his final arrest took him to Mr. Taylor who accused him of being involved in subversive activities. He said Mr. Taylor accused him of having travelled to Europe to purchase arms and ammunition which he had stored in the US Embassy in Monrovia. He said Taylor accused him of having transported 24 mercenaries from Ivory Coast into Liberia. According to the witness, Taylor told him he had plotted to overthrow his government together with current Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleef, Catholic Bishop Michael Francis, executive member of the New Deal Movement political party Ibrahim Mitchel, leader of ULIMO-K Alhaji Kromah and former Secretary of State for African Affairs at the US Embassy in Liberia Robert Perry.
Courd adjourned for the day and the witness is set to continue his testimony tomorrow Tuesday January 13, 2009.