Charles Taylor told lies in his direct-examination because he was too desperate to discredit prosecution witnesses while testifying in his own defense, prosecutors told the former Liberian president today. Mr. Taylor dismissed this assertion as “incorrect” – but the former president did admit to a series of inconsistencies in his own previous testimony as the day wore on.
Prosecution counsel, Nicholas Koumjian, today highlighted parts of Mr. Taylor’s testimony in direct-examination and told the former president that his accounts of the same events have been different under cross-examination.
While accusing Mr. Taylor of sending Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel commander Sam Bockarie to render assistance to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebel group in Angola, Mr. Koumjian told Mr. Taylor that he had given different accounts of his relationship with the UNITA rebel leader, the late General Jonas Savimbi.
Asked today whether knew Gen. Savimbi, Mr. Taylor responded that “I know of him but I never met him personally.” Mr. Koumjian pointed out that during his direct-examination on August 24, 2009, Mr. Taylor had told the court that he had met Gen. Savimbi in Ivory Coast through former Ivorian president Houphouet Boigny. Conceding that his two accounts were different, Mr. Taylor responded that “to be honest, I’ve never met Gen. Savimbi. I concede, what I said then was incorrect.”
Mr. Koumjian also pointed to the 2008 testimony of a prosecution witness who, testifying in private session, told the judges that when Mr. Bockarie left Liberia for Angola in early 2001, Mr. Taylor’s Chief of Protocol, Musa Sesay, accompanied Mr. Bockarie to Zambia. Mr. Bockarie was then handed over to the UNITA ambassador to Zambia, the witness said. However, in previous testimony, Mr. Taylor disputed the idea that Mr. Sesay could have accompanied Mr. Bockarie to Zambia because Mr. Taylor would have known about it if it happened – which he did not. As he sought to discredit Mr. Taylor’s account today, Mr. Koumjian showed Mr. Taylor a copy of a Liberian diplomatic passport which carried the photograph Mr. Sesay and had the title “Chief Of Protocol, Executive Mansion, Liberia.”
“I recognize this photograph as being that of Musa Sesay,” Mr. Taylor agreed with Mr. Koumjian.
Mr. Koumjian pointed out that on a page in the passport, there was an Abidjan International Airport stamp dated February 9, 2001 and which indicated in French “Sortie”, meaning “Exit.” Another stamp dated February 10, 2009 but which was not very legible indicated the word “Entry” with an entry permit valid up to February 13, 2001. A third stamp dated February 13, 2001 indicated that Mr. Sesay departed Lusaka International Airport on that date.
“So Mr. Taylor, this will indicate that the person using this passport departed Lusaka on the 13 February 2001,” Mr. Koumjian said. The prosecutor also indicated a fourth stamp which indicated that on February 15, 2001, Mr. Sesay re-entered Abidjan International Airport.
“That is seven days, you would know if Musa Sesay is out for a week and he wouldn’t go to Zambia without your order,” Mr. Koumjian said.
“He would go to Zambia without my order,” Mr. Taylor said, adding that “for the seven days, yes, I’ll say if he was away, I’ll know.”
Mr. Koumjian pointed out that Mr. Taylor had previously said that Mr. Sesay did not travel with Mr. Bockarie.
“We may have to determine the authenticity of this passport. We have seen many fake passports and fake stamps, so we’ll have to determine the authenticity of it,” Mr. Taylor responded.
“The reason you lied to these judges that you are 100 percent certain that Musa Sesay was not in Zambia and you did not know Mr. Savimbi is because you were desperate to discredit the witness who spoke about these issues,” Mr. Koumjian told Mr. Taylor.
“That is incorrect,” the former president responded.
Mr. Koumjian also pointed to Mr. Taylor that he lied about his knowledge of Mr. Sanjivan Ruprah, a Liberian ambassador-at-large who was also designated as the Deputy Commissioner of the Liberian Bureau of Maritime Affairs. Mr. Taylor said yesterday that he only knew of Mr. Ruprah but never knew him personally. Mr. Koumjian today read a portion of Mr. Taylor’s November 2009 testimony in direct-examination when he was asked by his defense counsel who Mr. Ruprah was. Mr. Taylor responded that he did not know Mr. Ruprah.
“Don’t you consider that a lie?” Mr. Koumjian asked Mr. Taylor.
“I don’t consider that a lie. If my counsel had asked me to say all I knew of Mr. Ruprah, I would have told him,” Mr. Taylor responded.
Mr. Koumjian further pointed out that during yesterday’s cross-examination, Mr. Taylor said that his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group had received some arms and ammunition from Burkina Faso. During his September 30, 2009 testimony in direct-examination, Mr. Koumjian said that the former president had said that Burkina Faso was not involved in giving arms and ammunition to Liberia.
Also asked today whether he gave RUF commander Issa Sesay a satellite phone, Mr. Taylor said that “yes, I did give Issa Sesay a satellite phone.” Mr. Koumjian again pointed that in September 2009, during his direct examination, Mr. Taylor had said that he did not give Mr. Sesay a satellite phone.
Mr. Koumjian also read a May 2000 letter which was purportedly written to Mr. Taylor by Mr. Sesay in which the RUF commander highlighted some conditions required for the RUF’s cooperation in the Sierra Leone peace process. The letter, which was among Mr. Taylor’s presidential papers and among the documents he admits were in his possession purports to come from Mr. Sesay but was not signed by him. Mr. Sesay’s name was also misspelled in the letter. Mr. Taylor said that he had received the original copy of the letter from Mr. Sesay.
Asked why Mr. Sesay had not signed the letter, Mr. Taylor said that “this might be the original copy and I don’t know why it was unsigned.”
Asked by Mr. Koumjian why he would have an original copy of a letter that was not signed by the author, Mr. Taylor insisted that “i cannot say why this letter has no signature.”
“Your staff wrote the letter for Issa Sesay” Mr. Koumjian put to Mr. Taylor.
“Even if my staff wrote a letter for Issa, he’ll still have to sign it. I cannot account for why this letter is not signed by Issa Sesay,” Mr. Taylor responded.
As Mr. Koumjian pointed out that Mr. Sesay’s name was misspelled in the letter which was supposed to have come from him, Mr. Taylor responded that “You have a point but I tell you, this document was one delivered to my government by the RUF.”
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues on Monday.