Charles Taylor did not order the execution of Sierra Leonean rebel commander Sam Bockarie, but rather sent his former vice president Moses Blah to arrest him on the Liberian border with Ivory Coast, the accused former Liberian president told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague today.
Mr. Taylor was revisiting an early position he maintained in his testimony yesterday: that his former vice president Mr. Blah told lies in his May 2008 testimony when, as a prosecution witness, Mr. Blah said that he was on a visit to his farm in Nimba County, Liberia, when he discovered that Mr. Bockarie had been killed. In his testimony today, Mr. Taylor reaffirmed his position, explaining that he gave specific orders to Mr. Blah to arrest Revolutional United Front (RUF) commander, Mr. Bockarie, on his way back from Ivory Coast with armed men.
“Moses lied to this court when he said that he was just going to his farm. I dispatched him to go and effect Bockarie’s arrest,” Mr. Taylor told the judges today.
In his May 2008 testimony, Mr. Blah told the judges that he was in his village in Nimba on the night of May 5, 2002 when Mr. Taylor’s Director of Special Security Service(SSS), Benjamin Yeaten, stopped by his house and greeted him in the company Mr. Bockarie, his wife and other Sierra Leoneans. At about 2-2:30AM, Mr. Blah said, he was woken up and told that fighting had erupted at the Liberian-Ivorian border. The following day, on his way back to Monrovia, he said he bumped into Mr. Yeaten who invited him to a Saw Mill Camp and told him they had gone on a special operation the previous night. He said that Mr. Yeaten then showed him the corpse of Mr. Bockarie, which he said was still dressed like he had seen him the previous night.
In response, Mr. Taylor disputed his former vice president’s account, insisting that Mr. Bockarie’s corpse was driven to Monrovia and delivered to the funeral home by Mr. Blah himself.
“Sam Bockarie’s body, on anything under the sun, was taken to Monrovia by Blah. Nobody under this planet took the body to Monrovia other than Moses Blah. I don’t know why he lied,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor also disputed Mr. Blah’s account that when he saw Mr. Bockarie’s corpse at the Saw Mill Camp on the way to Monrovia, Mr. Yeaten had told him that Mr. Bockarie was executed because they wanted to “destroy evidence,” not wanting “anything exposed.” Mr. Blah told the court in May 2008 that he believed that if Mr. Bockarie had not been killed, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and Mr. Taylor’s secret support to the RUF would have been exposed.
Mr. Taylor today dismissed Mr. Blah’s account, insisting that there was no secret he feared to be exposed.
“There was no such thing. Expose what? What is about Sam Bockarie to be exposed? Bockarie to my understanding was not indicted. I didn’t lure Bockarie to Liberia to kill him because I didn’t want to be exposed,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor also dismissed Mr. Blah’s account that when he arrived in Monrovia following Mr. Bockarie’s death, he asked Mr. Taylor why Mr. Bockarie had been killed. According to Mr. Blah, Mr. Taylor dismissed his inquiry into the matter, saying that “that is not your business, it is a military operation.”
“He is a military man and how will I not discuss that with him? Mr. Taylor asked.
“Blah was sent to that operation. I swear to my life, he took the body to the funeral home. He is lying. The fact of the matter is that Bockarie is killed by Liberian forces. I liked Bockarie as a son and Moses knows how hurt I was to hear of Bockarie’s death. Blah was negligent, I sent him to save this boy but he failed,” Mr. Taylor told the judges.
Mr. Taylor also told the court today that he did not know that Mr. Bockarie’s wife and entire family had been killed in the said operation.
Mr. Taylor further disputed Mr. Blah’s account that a radio operator told him that leader of Sierra Leone’s illegal junta regime, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Johnny Paul Koroma, was executed in Liberia.
“I don’t know where they got this other lie from. That is not true because there are also reports that Johnny Paul Koroma is alive and well. Why will Johnny Paul Koroma be killed?” Mr. Taylor asked.
Another point addressed by Mr. Taylor in his testimony today was Mr. Blah’s account that he did not know that Mr. Taylor was going to hand over the presidency of Liberia to him in 2003.
“Moses had close to two weeks of notice,” Mr. Taylor said.
Also in his testimony today, Mr. Taylor declared the prosecution’s expert witness, Dr. Stephen Ellis, as biased. Mr. Ellis had testified in 2008 about Mr. Taylor’s activities in the West African sub-region. According to Mr. Taylor, Dr. Ellis has had a long standing association with certain Liberians, including current Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who he said have made all efforts to bring Mr. Taylor down. Mr. Taylor’s defense team produced transcripts of a telephone conversation that Dr. Ellis had with Madam Johnson Sirleaf several years ago for a book he was writing about developments in the sub-region.
Since July 14 2009, Mr. Taylor has been testifying as a witness in his own defense. He is responding to charges that he provided support to RUF rebels who fought an 11-year war in Sierra Leone. The prosecution alleges that Mr. Taylor bears responsibility for various crimes including rape, murder, and recruitment of child soldiers committed by the rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied the allegations. His defense counsel has indicated that Mr. Taylor’s direct-examination will be completed by Monday, after which he will be cross-examined by the prosecution.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.