Weapons were never transported from Charles Taylor’s White Flower residence in Monrovia for use by rebel forces in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor told the Special Court for Sierra Leone today.
“Nobody ever picked up weapons from White Flower. Nobody ever picked up a single weapon there, not even Benjamin Yeaten,” the accused former Liberian president said during his testimony today.
Mr. Taylor was responding to the testimony the 33rd Prosecution Witness TFI-375, who in his June 2008 testimony said that while working with Mr. Taylor’s Special Security Services (SSS) Director, Benjamin Yeaten, in Liberia, he picked up arms and ammunition on several occasions from Mr. Taylor’s White Flower residence in Monrovia. TFI-375 testified that he then transported the weapons to Sierra Leone for use by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.
The witness had also testified that while in Sierra Leone in 1997, a Liberian rebel called Jungle took weapons for use by RUF rebels when he visited RUF commander, Sam Bockarie. The witness said Jungle told him he had picked up the weapons from Mr. Taylor’s White Flower residence in Liberia and in return, Mr. Bockarie had given him diamonds to take to Mr. Taylor.
In his testimony today, Mr. Taylor dismissed the witness’ account as lies.
“I say he is lying. He must be confused. How could I, as president of Liberia, take ammunition and give it to him?” Mr. Taylor asked. “I have nothing else to do as president but to take some ammunition like a shop boy and give it to him to take to Sierra Leone? In fact, White Flower does not exist in 1997. I moved into that building in January 1998,” the accused former president said.
Mr. Taylor explained that because of the presence of Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeepers in Liberia at that time, it would have been impossible for anyone to transport huge loads of ammunition from Liberia to Sierra Leone in big trucks.
“If ammunition is crossing from Liberia to Sierra Leone in a truck, ECOMOG must have carried it. Note that there were 18,000 ECOMOG soldiers in Liberia at this time,” he said.
Mr. Taylor also denied knowing Jungle who, according to Witness TFI-375, was part of Mr. Taylor’s close protection unit as well as liaison between Mr. Taylor and Mr. Bockarie.
“There is no such person called Jungle in the Close Protection Unit,” Mr. Taylor said.
“When I needed Bockarie in 1998, I sent for him. There is no liaison like Jungle. We’ll contact him by radio when we needed him,” the former president added.
Witness TFI-375, in his June 2008 testimony, also said that he was part of a team that took arms and ammunition from Mr. Taylor’s private farm at Gbangha in 1998 and transported them to RUF commander, Superman, in Buedu. The witness testified that these weapons were used by the RUF for “Operation Fiti Fata,” an operation he said was launched to capture the diamond-rich town of Kono. Mr. Taylor today denied having any arms storage on his private farm at Gbangha.
“If any president can make his farm or residence an arms depot, then the Secret Service should not even exist,” he said.
Mr. Taylor also denied the witness’s assertion that he had direct numbers for Mr. Taylor’s cell and satellite phones while he worked with Benjamin Yeatan in Liberia.
“That is the biggest lie I have ever heard. There is no cell phone number that the witness had. Even cabinet members did not have my cell phone number. It was the only protected number in Liberia,” Mr. Taylor said.
Also in his testimony today, Mr. Taylor denied ever knowing the Prosecution’s 21st Witness Joseph Marzah, a.k.a. “Zig Zag” Marzah, who in his testimony said he was the Chief of Operations for Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and head of the Death Squad of the Mr. Taylor’s SSS that was headed by Benjamin Yeaten. Also in his testimony in 2008, Mr. Marzah said that he sat together with Mr. Taylor and feasted upon human intestines.
“I first saw Marzah in this court. I did not know him personally. I did not recognize him when I first saw him in court,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor also disputed the assertion that Mr. Marzah was a Colonel in the SSS. Describing Mr. Marzah today, Mr. Taylor said that “Marzah ends up being an Orderly to Yeaten. A Colonel? I doubt that very much. An Orderly who cannot even read and write? I doubt that very much.”
Mr. Taylor is responding to allegations that he provided support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone through the supply of arms and ammunition and that he helped plan RUF operations, thus helping the rebels commit atrocities against the government and people of Sierra Leone. He has denied all the allegations against him.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.