Charles Taylor did not support plans to attack Sierra Leone while he was in Libya, the accused former Liberian president told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today while being cross-examined by the prosecution.
Mr. Taylor was today responding to questions under cross-examination by lead prosecution counsel Ms. Brenda Hollis on his associations in Libya where rebel forces where being trained to eventually invade Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1989 and 1991 respectively. Mr. Taylor has on numerous occasions insisted that he never knew about the formation of the Sierra Leonean rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and that he never met the group’s leader, Foday Sankoh, in Libya. The former president has said that he instead met the leader of Sierra Leone Pan-Africanist Movement, Ali Kabbah, who was a former University of Sierra Leone student leader.
As Mr. Taylor was being cross-examined today, he challenged prosecution claims that Mr. Kabbah and Mr. Sankoh had a schism in Libya because they both had disagreements as to what measures were needed to bring about change in Sierra Leone. Mr. Kabbah, the prosecution claimed, met with Mr. Taylor and told him he wanted to embark on ideological education in Sierra Leone as a means of bringing about change in the country, while Mr. Sankoh preferred a military revolution. The prosecution put it to Mr. Taylor that he supported Mr. Sankoh over Mr. Kabbah because he (Taylor) was also in favour of a military revolution in Sierra Leone, just like the one he was planning for Liberia. Mr. Taylor denied the prosecution’s claim, insisting that he never knew Mr. Sankoh in Libya.
“You favoured Foday Sankoh over Ali Kabbah because Sankoh was in favour of a military option right?” Ms. Hollis asked Mr. Taylor today.
“I could have only favoured one over the other if I knew the other but I did not know Sankoh,” the former president responded.
“I do not know what happened behind the scenes but that is not what Ali Kabbah told me and other people,” Mr. Taylor added.
Mr. Taylor challenged prosecution claims that Mr. Kabbah had told him (Taylor) that he did not want a military solution to Sierra Leone’s problems but rather an “ideological training as a means of taking power” in the country.
“That is not my information,” Mr. Taylor said. “The Ali Kabbah I met did tell Charles Taylor that he had contacts within the government and the military in Sierra Leone and that he only needed a spark for a military takeover in the country,” he added.
Mr. Taylor also denied prosecution assertions that when he met with Muamarr Ghadaffi, he spoke to the Libyan leader about the schism in the RUF and his support for Mr. Sankoh and his military option.
“No. I never knew of any schism in the RUF. Everyone in Libya had to mind their own business. When I spoke to Ghadaffi, I did not talk about nonsense. I spoke about revolutionary ideas. I did not speak to him about Sierra Leone at all,” he said.
Since Mr. Taylor started testifying as a witness in his own defense on July 14, 2009, he has consistently denied ever helping to plan the invasion of Sierra Leone while in Libya. The prosecution has alleged that Mr. Taylor has been involved in a joint criminal enterprise with RUF leader Mr. Sankoh since the late 1980s when the two men allegedly met in Libya. This alleged criminal enterprise, the prosecution says, continued with the invasion of Liberia in 1989 and Sierra Leone in 1991, and up to the end of the conflict in Sierra Leone in January 2002. Mr. Taylor has denied the charges against him.
Also in his cross-examination today, Mr. Taylor denied prosecution claims that when he travelled to Ghana in 1985 after his escape from a United States prison, the Ghanaian government arrested him because he was recruiting people for The Boys Brigade, a Ghanaian group opposed to then Ghanaian president John Jerry Rawlings.
“No, that is not correct. I was busy recruiting the Special Forces. That was a trick those boys put together to arrest me. It’s a blatant, blatant lie,” Mr. Taylor said.
After Mr. Taylor’s release from prison in Ghana, the former president said he travelled to Ivory Coast, then to Burkina Faso before travelling to Libya where his men were trained to attack Liberia in 1989.
The prosecution also questioned Mr. Taylor today about the role of the Association for the Legal Defense of Charles G. Taylor, a group established by close associates of Mr. Taylor in Liberia after his arrest by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Asked about the purpose of the group’s establishment, Mr. Taylor told the judges that “dissemination of information about the trial in Liberia is very poor and their purpose is to disseminate information about the trial to the Liberian people.”
On suggestions by Ms. Hollis that the group’s purpose is to coordinate investigations and witnesses for Mr. Taylor’s defense, Mr. Taylor said that “there is no defense office for me in Liberia other than the one in this court. That is a no no.”
When asked by Ms. Hollis whether the group had bank accounts in various countries, Mr. Taylor said “I have no idea and I doubt it very much.”
Mr. Taylor is presently being cross-examined by the prosecution, having testified in direct-examination as a witness in his own defense. He is being tried on charges that he provided support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, a group that fought an 11-years rebel war in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied providing support for the Sierra Leonean rebel forces or ever helping them plan operations on how to plunder the country’s diamonds and capture political power.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.