As former Liberian president Charles Taylor wrapped up his testimony today, he had one message for the judges: prosecutors have not proven their case against me.
Prosecutors say Mr. Taylor is responsible for heinous crimes committed by rebel forces in the neighboring West African nation of Sierra Leone — including murder, rape, amputations and using child soldiers to fight — during the country’s brutal 11-year war. The former president has been testifying in his own defense since July 14, 2009. He has denied all charges against him in his trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
“In order to make their case that they have not been able, in my opinion, to prove, they can call me any name, it does not make it right. And the facts before this court, the judges in their decision will determine as to whether this is true –‘He’s got billions of dollars’,” Mr. Taylor said, repeating the allegations made against him by prosecutors, who say he enriched himself with profits from selling diamonds he got from rebels in exchange for weapons.
“We’ve been in this court now, I’ve been sitting in this chair here for almost seven months, where are the billions?” he said. “I disagree with them, but I think it’s a part of their job to say these kinds of things or to try to make me look bad, this is not true, so I disagree with them.”
Prosecutors have also tried to demonstrate that while Mr. Taylor was president of Liberia between 1997 to 2003, he abused the trust of the Liberian people, which in turn caused the international community to back away from supporting his government. Mr. Taylor, right through his testimony, has asserted that he diligently served his country as president, and that he is now in the Special Court thanks to a conspiracy among western countries to make him a scapegoat for crimes in Sierra Leone.
“Everything that I did as president, is being done [now] exactly as I did it, these very same people, Maryland Wood is operating in Liberia right now, the same procedure… is being used right now by Ellen Johnson, everything, there is nothing unlawful, nothing illegal, the same procedure of designating and permitting an oligopoly for rice — because rice is a matter of life and death in Liberia — is going on the same way right now. There’s nothing but just allegations and just mere allegations. That’s it,” the former president said.
Mr. Taylor also dismissed as lies prosecution allegations that he persecuted journalists and human rights activists who became critical of his government. Mr. Taylor told the judges that persons who have been named by prosecutors as journalists and human rights activists were opposition activists who were bent on spreading misinformation about him and his government.
“There is a political context here in dealing with certain people that have been raised here…but these were people that were involved in a process of spreading information, disinformation, misinformation, doing everything to bring my government down,” he said.
As Mr. Taylor concluded his testimony today, he reaffirmed his position that he did not in any way support armed groups in Sierra Leone, including the RUF and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council(AFRC) – a group of disaffected Sierra Leonean soldiers who overthrew the elected government of Sierra Leonee in May 1997.
“Did you, Charles Taylor, between November 1996 and January 2002 provide assistance, support or any kind of help with war-like materials to either the AFRC or the RUF?” Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, asked him as a final question in his re-examination.
“No. Never,” Mr. Taylor responded.
Other defense witnesses will start testifying in Mr. Taylor’s defense on Monday.