Charles Taylor today refuted testimony of a prosecution witness who said that the Sierra Leonean rebels had three radio stations and operators in Liberia, including one at the country’s main international airport.
Mr. Taylor was responding to the testimony of protected prosecution witness TFI-338 who in her September 2008 testimony spoke of the alleged relationship between Mr. Taylor and the Sierra Leonean rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Allegations that Mr. Taylor was in control of the RUF and in a position to prevent and punish crimes committed by the rebel group, along with allegations that Mr. Taylor aided and abetted the RUF in crimes committed in Sierra Leone during its brutal conflict, go to the heart of some of the key charges against the former Liberian President at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The existence of radio communications between Mr. Taylor and the rebels were part of the prosecution’s efforts to demonstrate Mr. Taylor’s alleged role in the crimes committed after 1996 in Sierra Leone’s war.
According to the protected witness, regular radio communications existed between Liberian radio stations controlled by Mr. Taylor and his Special Security Service (SSS) Director Benjamin Yeaten on the one hand, and RUF radio stations controled by rebel commander Sam Bockarie on the other. The witness testified that the RUF also maintained three radio stations in Liberia, including one at Liberia’s main international airport, Roberts International Airport (RIA). These stations, the witness said, operated with Mr. Taylor’s approval. The radio station at RIA, called Sky 1, was responsible for informing the RUF whenever West African peacekeepers based in Liberia took off in their Alpha Jet fighter aircraft to bomb RUF positions in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor dismissed the witness’ assertions as “lies”.
“How will the RUF have a radio station installed at the international airport of Liberia? That is total foolishness,” he said.
Asked by his defense counsel whether the RUF could have had radio stations in other parts of Liberia outside of Monrovia, Mr. Taylor said that “it is possible may be they might know someone at the radio stations in Liberia but to have a radio station there, it is impossible.”
Mr. Taylor, however, admitted that sometime in 1998, the RUF maintained a radio station with his consent at the guesthouse that was assigned to them in Monrovia. The guesthouse and radio station were mainly geared towards facilitating discussions with the RUF for a peaceful end to the conflict in Sierra Leone. Other West African leaders involved in the Sierra Leone peace process knew about the guesthouse and radio station, Mr. Taylor explained.
“The only RUF radio station in Liberia was in 1998, installed at the guesthouse allocated to them. My other colleagues involved in the Sierra Leone peace process knew about it,” Mr. Taylor said.
Witness TFI-338 also testified that in 1997, a Liberian radio operator called Selay was based in Sierra Leone’s eastern town of Kenema to coordinate communications between RUF’s Mr. Bockarie in Sierra Leone and National Patriotic Front of Liberia’s (NPFL) Mr. Yeaten.
In response to this, Mr. Taylor told the judges that “I don’t know a thing about it and I don’t think it happened. I don’t think Benjamin Yeaten would have a radio operator in Kenema.”
Mr. Taylor also denied Witness TFI-338’s testimony that members of Mr. Taylor’s SSS named Jungle, Samson and Junior visited Sierra Leone in 1997 wearing their SSS uniforms.
“That will be a silly thing to do, to send people in uniform to Sierra Leone. I am fighting for peace in Sierra Leone and I send my security men to parade in Sierra Leone? That is silly,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor dismissed the witness’s entire evidence a “concoction.”
“None of this is true. This witness is just making this up and I can definitely say that she is confused,” he added.
Mr. Taylor also responded to the testimony of another prosecution witness who in November 2008 testified that during the war years in Sierra Leone, the RUF received advice and support from Mr. Taylor in Liberia. The witness told judges in 2008 that sometime in 1994, Mr. Taylor advised the RUF’s leader, Foday Sankoh, to attack Sierra Rutile Mines in Sierra Leone and terrorize civilians there. The witness said that Mr. Taylor also told Mr. Sankoh to arrest white employees at the Rutile Mines in order to get the attention of the international community.
Asked by his defense counsel whether he ever gave such advice to Mr. Sankoh, Mr. Taylor responded that “No I did not. This is 1994. There is no way I am in touch with Sankoh as of May 1992. I was never in contact with the RUF in 1994 and I didn’t even know what was going on with them.”
The witness also said that Mr. Taylor and Mr. Sankoh communicated on a daily basis in his presence within this period. Mr. Taylor dismissed the witness’s account, saying “It is blatantly false that between 1993 or 94, 95, 96, 97 or 98, I was in contact with Sankoh.”
“This doesn’t stop. It is a blatant lie,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor is accused of providing support for RUF rebels through the supply of arms and ammunition in return for diamonds mined by the rebels in Sierra Leone. The prosecution further alleges that Mr. Taylor helped plan rebel attacks in Sierra Leone and that he occupied a superior position over RUF commanders, during which time he knew or had reason to know that crimes were being committed by the rebels but that he failed to punish or prevent the commission of those crimes. By his actions or inactions, the prosecution says that he is responsible for the crimes committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations and he is presently testifying as a witness in his own defense.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues on Monday October 26 when the Special Court resumes after recess.