Friday January 16, 2009
10:00am: Court resumed and defense counsel for Charles Taylor, Cournetay Griffiths QC continued the cross-examination of witness Hassan Bility. Counsel sought to establish that the reasons for the witness’s arrests by the Taylor government related to his association with rebel factions in Liberia or his association with individuals who were poised to assasinate Mr. Taylor and topple his government. Counsel produced several emails allegedly addressed to the witness which pointed out conversations with other individuals who were planning Taylor’s assasination. Counsel also sought to know why the witness was writing a book about his struggles with Charles Taylor.
Witness’s Writing of a Book
Pointing out the proposed title of the book “Journalists Quest Against A Dictator,” counsel asked the witness to explain the meaning of the word ‘Quest.” The witness explained that it means when you seek to know or to find something. Counsel pointed out to the witness that he was on a mission against Mr. Taylor. The witness disagreed with counsel. He pointed out that the real title of the book has not been settled on as the present title is a mere proposal in addition to several other titles being considered. Counsel then pointed out thet he was questioning the witness’s motivation because when he spoke with prosecution investigators, he did not point out that he had several other titles under consideration. There was disagreement between defense counsel Mr. Griffiths and the witness as to whether the use of the word ‘Journalist’ in the title of the book was a plural, meaning a group of journalists or singular, meaning the witness alone. The witness insisted that he meant journalists in plural, meaning, he was writing about a group of journalists quest against Mr. Taylor. The witness then told the court that he was concerned as to why the book was being discussed in court since it was not an issue in eveidence in the trial. Counsel responded that he was bringing it up to determine the witness motivation to testify against Mr. Taylor. Counsel asked the witness whether other journalists were arrested by the Taylor government in Liberia and the witness mentioned Joseph Batuah of The News Newspaper as another journalist who was arrested. Counsel told the witness he was telling lies. Counsel suggested to the witness that he was obsessed with Mr. Taylor. The witness disagreed with counsel.
Witness’s Relationship with ULIMO and LURD
Counsel asked the witness whether he knows A.B Kromah and Sekou Kromah and whether they are half brothers of Alhaji Kromah, leader of ULIMO-K. The witness said while he knew Sekou Kromah, he did not know A. B Kromah but Ibrahim Kromah and that the two of them were not half brothers of Alhaji Kromah. He explained that I.K Kromah was from Ganta and had Madingo parents while Sekou Kromah had a Madingo father and a Gio mother. He further explained that in Liberia, people with the same last name can call themselves brothers. He said that Madingos who are related by blood do not call themselves cousins but brothers. He, however, insisted that they are not blood brothers. He agreed with cousel that Ibrahim Kromah served as Chief of Staff of ULIMO but could not tell the internal role Sekou Kromah played in the same ULIMO or what association he had with LURD. When asked whether LURD supported Ellen Johnson-Sirleef in the most recent Liberian elections, the witness said he could not tell. While he mentioned the names of some of the ploitical parties that contested the past elections in Liberia, he could not say how many political parties there were in the elections.
In response to counsel’s question about the arrest of political leaders in Liberia, the witness said that an executive member of the New Deal Movement political party whose name he cannot remember was arrested. He also said that Dr. Amos Sawyer was attacked and beaten but was not arrested. Counsel told the witness that he had instructions from Mr. Taylor to call him a liar as no political leaders were ever arrested. The witness said he was not aware of the closure of any political party.
The witness agreed that he had a cousin called Musa Bility but was not aware of him being a senior financier for LURD or ULIMO. The witness said that he had a different political opinion from that of Musa Bility, who was closely associated with Amos Sawyer. He agreed with counsel that Musa Bility was once Chairman of the Madingo Association. He cannot say whether Musa Bility owned a newspaper but that he did own a radio station.
When asked about The National Newspaper, the witness said that he does not know when it was established. He also said he does not know whether Alhaji Kromah provided funding for the newspaper or whether it was ever incorporated in the name of Alhaji Kromah and Family.
Counsel asked the witness to name the person who was present during his interview by police when he was arrested. The witness told counsel he did not wish to name the person in court. After being ordered by the presiding judge to name the person, the witness said his name was Ibrahim Massallay. When asked about his 7th arrest, the witness agreed with counsel that this took place during a state of emergency in Liberia. He also agreed that the government was justified in declaring a state of emergency as the country was at war. When asked whether his arrest created any uproar in Liberia, the witness said he could not say whether that was the case. He also said he does not know whether the US Ambassador to Liberia called the Liberian foreign affairs minister when he was arrested. He also said he cannot say whether the US Embassy lodged a formal complaint that he was tortured while in detention. He said he was aware that his arrest was reported in the Liberian press and on BBC Focus on Africa. When asked what reasons were given to him for his arrest, he explained that the reasons given to him were that:
1. He was conniving with Ellen Johnson Sirleef, Bishop Michael Francis, the Secretary of State for African Affairs in the US Embassy, Robert Perry and others to assasinate Mr. Taylor.
2. That he had travelled to Europe and had brought arms and ammunition to Liberia for the assasination of the president.
3. That he had transported 24 mercenaries into Liberia from Ivory Coast for the assasination of the president.
He said that the arrest was occassioned by articles that he had written about the state of emergency in Liberia. He said that he was not involved in an operation to assasinate Mr. Taylor. Counsel told the witness that there were documents presented to him upon his arrest, which were emails he exchanged with others pointing to the fact that he was involved in a plan to assasinate Mr. Taylor. Counsel read through the various emails and pointed out that they were emails addressed to the witness by exiled Liberians who wanted to assasinate Taylor. In the first email sent on June 18, 2002, which was few days before the witness was arrested, the sender, a Chief Alhaji wrote about the Kongo Town operation. He also said Taylor should either go or be dead. The witness admitted that this email was shown to him upon his arrest and detention at the National Bureau of Investigation but insisted that the email was not addressed to him.
Counsel read a second email addressed to the same recipient in which the sender said that any more delays will allow Taylor and his people to discover the plan. The sender also wrote that “our big brothers at Congress and the State Department want Taylor killed.”
In the third email, the sender is referred to as ‘Bil.’ The witness agreed with counsel that he was also called Bil and that he was working for The Analyst Newspaper at that time. In email, Bil, allegedly the witness, was threatened for writing an anit-LURD article. The witness agreed that he had written an anti-LURD article at that time. Bil, was also threatened to resign. Counsel suggested to the witness that The National and The Analyst Newspapers were mouth pieces for the rebel forces. In the next email, reference was made to one Abu Bakkar, who drove for the ‘Consular section.’ The witness said he knew Abu Bakarr at the time of his arrest. Reference was also made to the killing of Taylor in the email.
Counsel read another email dated June 21, 2002 and was sent from the US. Witness agreed that Alhaji Kromah was in the US at this time. In the email, the recipient is referred to as Hassan in one line and Bility in another line. Counsel insisted that the witness was the recipient of this email. Reference was also made to the arms arrangement for the operation and the sender is listed as ‘A. Koroma.”
The witness said that all the emails were shown to him as the basis of his arrest and counsel insisted that in the last email, the witness’s full name was mentioned as Hassan Bility. The witness agreed with counsel that he was the only person called Hassan Billity, nicknamed Bil, in Liberia at this time. Counsel told the witness that he was trying to assasinate Taylor and that is why he was arrested. Counsel told him that he was not an impartial journalist but a man who wanted to kill Taylor. He agreed with counsel that Taylor’s meeting with him was filmed. Counsel suggested that Taylor had his meeting with the witness filmed so everyone would see how transparent their discussion was.
Court adjourned for mid-morning break.