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Defense Grills Father of Child Soldier

Lawyers for Thomas Lubanga continued to cross-examine the father of a former child soldier on Friday, grilling him repeatedly on how he learned his 11-year-old son had been kidnapped and sent to a training camp for Lubanga’s militia.

“How many times do you want me to answer this question?” complained the unnamed witness, who appeared increasingly agitated as the day progressed.

“You’re grinding this [point] very small, indeed,” presiding Judge Adrian Fulford said to one of Lubanga’s lawyers, Marc Desalliers.

The witness is the father of the unnamed boy who abruptly recanted his testimony during questioning last week and suggested he had been coached on what to say.

The father told prosecutors on Wednesday that he, too, had been a soldier in Lubanga’s militia and worked as the defendant’s personal bodyguard in the town of Bunia when his son was taken from their village at the end of 2002.

As during his testimony on Wednesday and Thursday, the witness remained shielded from public view, his face and voice distorted digitally.

He learned his son had been taken to a training camp, he said, when he met a “trader” from his village in the Bunia market.

When Desalliers asked if the trader provided details on his son’s kidnapping, the witness responded that the trader had only “heard” about what had happened.

“The child did not talk to him,” continued the witness.  “How do you think a trader [would] know all these details? Everyone knew my son was in Bule. It was common knowledge.”

Desalliers then probed the witness on his decision to leave the militia – effectively becoming a deserter – in order find his son and remove him from the training camp.

Why, Desalliers asked, wouldn’t he ask permission to leave before taking such a drastic step?

“Your job is different, so you cannot understand how it works in [the] army,” responded the witness. “If I asked, what do you think my boss would have thought? That I don’t want my son to join [the] army? I was afraid. I didn’t want to be beaten up.”

But didn’t he fear going to the militia’s training camp in Bule, since he had just deserted the militia? Desalliers asked.

“In the Bule camp, I had my friends,” said the witness. “I couldn’t be afraid of my friends.”

The witness was unable to finish his testimony due to technical problems that also delayed the trial for nearly two hours on Friday.

Judge Fulford ordered a “full and comprehensive” report on the problem, telling the court that the “consequences of today’s delay are fairly considerable.”

The defense plans to conclude cross-examination on Monday.