Charles Taylor today denied prosecution allegations that he ordered Sierra Leonean rebels to attack Guinea in 2000 to oust its then president, Lansana Conte, whom Mr. Taylor accused of supporting fighters to attack his own government in Liberia.
“No I did not, no I did not,” the accused former Liberian president kept repeating as he answered questions about whether he sent Sierra Leonean rebel forces to attack Guinea. “We were being attacked by LURD [Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy] from Guinea but I was equally busy with other issues that were not war-like.”
“It was in my best interest to attack Guinea but why not use Liberians for that?” Mr. Taylor asked.
Among other things, Mr. Taylor is charged with failing to prevent or punish crimes committed by Sierra Leonean rebel forces alleged to be under his control during the country’s 11-year conflict, as well as aiding and abetting the crimes they committed. Today, Mr. Taylor was responding to the evidence of two prosecution witnesses, Mohamed Marvin Mansaray and Abu Keita, who both had given evidence to the Special Court for Sierra Leone about Mr. Taylor’s alleged control of Sierra Leonean rebel forces and the assistance he provided to the rebels in their attacks.
In his March 2008 testimony, Witness Mansaray testified that sometime in July 2000, Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander Issa Sesay told RUF fighters that Mr. Taylor had given an order for them to attack Guinea. The witness said that Mr. Taylor provided arms and ammunition, including bombs, for the operation.
Witness Mansaray’s testimony reinforced an earlier witness’s testimony, Abu Keita, who in his January 2008 testimony told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that after the release of UN peacekeepers who were held hostage by RUF rebels in 2000, Mr. Taylor gave orders to the RUF to attack Guinea. The attack, Witness Keita said, was led by an RUF commander called Short Bai Bureh. The witness said that Mr. Taylor gave RUF commander Mr. Sesay a satellite phone and 50 boxes of ammunition. Mr. Taylor today told the judges in his testimony that this never happened.
“Never happened. Oh my dear, it is just too much. It is a blatant lie. There is no such thing as anybody getting even one box of ammunition from me,” he said.
Mr. Taylor also dismissed as “lies” Witness Keita’s testimony that sometime in August 1999, he (Taylor) gave orders to the RUF to join the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and Mr. Taylor’s Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU) fighters to fight against LURD rebels in Lofa County, Liberia.
Mr. Taylor also denied allegations by both Witnesses Mansaray and Keita that the former Liberian president supplied weapons to RUF rebels, which they said were used to launch attacks against the government and people of Sierra Leone.
Witness Mansaray in his March 2008 testimony said that sometime in April 1999, Mr. Taylor supplied the RUF with weapons, including an anti aircraft twin barrel gun. The weapons, the witness said, were presented at a muster parade in Magburaka, northern Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor today denied supplying the RUF with any such weapon.
“No I did not. To have had a weapon of that sort means we did not disarm. A twin barrel anti aircraft gun is not a little piece of equipment. It takes two operators to fire that weapon and it is manned by a squad of ten men. Its not a little toy. It’s a blatant, blatant lie,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor had the same response for Witness Keita’s evidence that Mr. Taylor had provided weapons for use by RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor further dismissed Witness Keita’s allegations that together with RUF Commander Sam Bockarie and Mr. Taylor’s Special Security Unit (SSU) commander Benjamin Yeaten, he (Keita) had visited Mr. Taylor’s White Flower residence in October 1998. Mr. Taylor today said that he has never even met Witness Keita in person.
“I didn’t know the gentleman, never met him,” Mr. Taylor said.
“We are talking about October 1998. I was not living in White Flower at this time. I moved there on my birthday in January 1999,” he added.
Witness Keita testified in January 2008 that he was recruited by Benjamin Yeaten, on Mr. Taylor’s orders, to join the RUF in Sierra Leone and establish a unit there called the Scorpion Unit. Witness Keita said that the letter authorizing his appointment was signed by Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor denied the witness’s testimony. Mr. Taylor accused Witness Keita of having joined another rebel faction leader, Roosevelt Johnson, to fight against his (Taylor’s) forces.
“I would be stupid, very stupid to do that. Keita, who I know had demonstrated his disloyalty as an enemy combatant, to recruit him among thousands, I Charles Taylor, will never do that,” he said.
Mr. Taylor dismissed all of Witness Keita’s testimony as a “fabrication.”
“Abu Keita’s evidence is a blatant and intentional fabrication. I think he designed this,” he said.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.