Friday January 30, 2009
10:00am: The prosecution evidence againts Charles Taylor was brought to a close today Friday January 30, 2009. The last/final prosecution witness TF1-278, who commenced his testimony yesterday, concluded his evidence against Charles Taylor. Mr. Taylor was absent in court but he consented to the continuation of proceedings in his absence.
Examination of Witness TF1-278
Prosecution counsel Mr. Nocholas Koumjian continued the cross-examination of the witness. Counsel continued asking questions about the witness’s experience during the January 1999 rebel invasion of Freetown. Counsel asked the witness about an individual he mentioned as having seen at Shell Gas Station when rebels entered Freetown in January 1999. The man’s name according to the witness was High Way. He explained that the man had been imprisoned at pademba Road Prison for murder and he was released by rebels when they released all the prisoners upon entering the capital. Asked how he knew that the man’s name was High Way, the witness said that everybody in Freetown knew about High Way as he had murdered a former Bank Governor as well as a medical doctor. He said that High Way was very notorious. He also informed the court that High Way was armed when he saw him.
Further explaining his experiences, the witness said that at Falcon Street, the rebels asked all residents to move outside and dance for peace with white cloth. He said that the rebels started harrassing civilians after some time. Some of the rebels were armed, while some were not, the witness explained. He further said that at some point, the rebels asked the civilians to move to the center of town at PZ and dance for peace. He said he refused to go but based on what he heard, the ECOMOG Alpha Jet droped a bomb thus killing 17 civilians who went to PZ. He said that at some point, a group of rebels went and stayed at Falcon Street, where he resided.
At some point, the witness said a group of rebels, led by one Tommy went to his house, entered his room where he had kept a suticase. Among the rebels, he said were adults and children, both males and females. While some of them wore military fatigue, he said some had civilian clothes on. He said some of the rebels called themselves the Junta and some spoke with Liberian accent.
The witness also said that he interacted with a small boy in the group called Kelleh. When he realised that the boy was his Limba tribesman, he asked the boy why he had joined the group and the boy, he said, told him that he was captured eight years ago.
When ECOMOG Jets started dropping bombs, the witness said the gang left his house but another group went there and searched the entire house. He said when they went upstairs, they found a police uniform wrapped in a bag. He said the rebels thought he was a police officer but he explained to them and showed them his work ID that he was not a police officer. He said the rebels searched him and took away the Le. 50,000 he had with him. Two days later, the witness said he saw the Kissy Mental Home on fire. He said some other rebels entered his house, took the rice his wife had cooked, took some alcohol that he had and set the house on fire. According to the witness, he was hiding in the bath room outside the house. When the rebels left, he said he came and put out the fire but the rebels came back and set fire to the house again. He said that other house and structures close to his house were set on fire and so together with his family and other neighbours, they hid themselves in a banana plantation.
Court went into brief private session to allow the witness to mention the name of a person who was sexually assaulted. While hiding in the banana plantation, the witness said two girls between the ages of 16-18 were taken away by the rebels and they were only seen after the disarmament in Sierra Leone. He also said that while in hiding, a young baby cried and that brougt the rebels’ attention to where they were hiding. Because of this, he said they all escaped and moved into different directions. On their way, he said he saw a man who was shot and killed by the rebels. He said when the rebels halted them, some people escaped but he stayed to protect his family. One Mr. Barry, he said confronted the rebels and his hands were chopped off by the rebels using an axe. Mr. Barrie, he said left his children and went away. The rebels told him to go to Tejan Kabbah.
The witness said he was the next person to be called by the rebels. He said they chopped off his left hand and when his son cried about it, they threatened to cut off the son’s hand as well but the witness said he told the rebels that they had rather chop off his other hand than do same to his son. As a result, he said the rebels chopped off his right hand as well. Both hands, he said were now hanging off when he told his family to move along with the civilians while he went to look for a clinic. When he got to the clinic, he said it was closed and so he decided to move ahead. While moving, he said he fell into a gutter and started screaming. ECOMOG soldiers later took him to the Cannnaught Hospital where his chopped hands were amputated. He said he spent six months in the hospital, after which he was moved to the Amputee Camp at Aberdeen, in the western part of Freetown.
Counsel had the court view a short video of the witness and his son explaining their plight at the amputee camp at Aberdeen. The witness said he spent over five years at the camp and that there were over 280,000 of them there.
When asked whether this experience has had any impact on him, the witness explained that because of his amputation, he can no longer work and now lives as a begger. He said it is now even difficult to control his family.
Thus ended the examination of the witness.
Defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths QC cross-examined the witness. Counsel’s cross-examination was very short as he just asked the witness about the various stages of the conflict. Counsel asked the witness where he was when the war started in Sierra Leone. The witness responded that he was based in Freetown at that time. He said he heard peopel say that the war had started around Kailahun and Pujehun. He said he was not following the trend of the war so much on radio at this time.
When asked about the NPRC coup that toppled Joseph Momoh in 1992, the witness said he was in Freetown at that time. He said he was also in Freetown when the AFRC overthrew Tejan Kabbah in 1997. According to the witness, he knew that the RUF joined the AFRC in 1997. He said he was in Freetown when ECOMOG drove the AFRC out of power in 1998. He further reiterated his experiences during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown.
Thus ended the cross-examination of the witness.
This brought to an end the prosecution’s evidence againt Charles Taylor. Presiding judge Richard Lissick thanked all parties for their cooperation during this phase of the trial. Court was adjourned to February 9, 2009 when the Chamber will hold a Status Conference and determine how to proceed with the defense case.