As the cross-examination of Charles Taylor drew to a close after almost two months, the former Liberian president repeated his claim that a conspiracy by western powers to oust him from Liberia is what landed him in the Special Court for Sierra Leone today.
“Throughout your testimony to these judges, you have talked about a supposed conspiracy against you, and you have referred to this whole case as being about ‘let’s get Taylor’ and referred to is as a ‘construct’ — yes, Mr. Taylor?” asked lead prosecutor, Brenda Hollis.
“That is correct,” Mr. Taylor responded, arguing that the conspiracy was led by Britain and the United States.
Ms. Hollis pointed out that in Mr. Taylor’s own testimony, he had agreed that cooperation existed between his government and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) when Mr. Taylor was in power in Liberia. He had also told the court that the CIA had even tipped him off to an assassination attempt against him, Ms. Hollis said.
And yet, Ms. Hollis continued, if there was such cooperation between the CIA and Mr. Taylor’s government, then the CIA would have been working against the interest of the United States – which, according to Mr. Taylor, wanted him out of office.
“Was the CIA part of this supposed conspiracy against Charles Ghankay Taylor?” Ms. Hollis asked.
“It could have been, because sometimes intelligence agencies do one thing on one side and do another thing on the other side. So it could have been,” Mr. Taylor replied.
Mr. Taylor also extended this supposed conspiracy against him to other institutions which included the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union.
Asked whether former Sierra Leonean president, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, was part of the conspiracy — considering that the Sierra Leonean president had constantly accused him of providing support to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone — Mr. Taylor demurred.
“Oh, Kabbah is in a little different boat. Kabbah was doing what he had to do as president of Sierra Leone. I don’t know as to whether he was part of that conspiracy. But Kabbah was doing what came natural for him as president of Sierra Leone given the situation,” Mr. Taylor said.
“So you are saying that he was simply doing the bidding of others, Mr. Taylor?” Ms. Hollis enquired further.
“I would say that, yes,” Mr. Taylor responded.
Responding to a question as to whether Maxwell Khobe, the former Nigerian commander of the West African peacekeeping force that was based in Sierra Leone was part of the conspiracy, Mr. Taylor said no.
“No, Khobe is small potatoes. Khobe was doing what he was told to do. He’s small potatoes,” Mr. Taylor said.
The former president also exempted other military commanders of the West African peacekeeping troops, including General Timothy Shelpidi, General Victor Malu and General Mujakpero from involvement in the conspiracy against him.
“When it comes to these military people I don’t put them in this conspiracy thing. These military people were more concerned about getting their work done or whatever. No, they are not a part,” Mr. Taylor said.
These military commanders, all, at one point or the other, accused Mr. Taylor of providing support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone.
According to Mr. Taylor, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was not part of the conspiracy against him, but was pressured by the United States to arrest Mr. Taylor and transfer him to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. This pressure, according to Mr. Taylor, forced Mr. Obasanjo to yield to the conspiracy.
Ms. Hollis, in disagreeing with Mr. Taylor’s alleged ‘conspiracy’ theory told the former president that he was in court because he had brought untold suffering upon the people of Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor disagreed with Ms. Hollis’ allegation.
“And as the leader of the NPFL [National Patriotic Front of Liberia] and president of Liberia, your actions brought immeasurable suffering to countless victims in Sierra Leone, to your African brothers and sisters, that’s the truth of it, isn’t it Mr. Taylor?” Ms. Hollis asked Mr. Taylor.
“That’s not the truth. I’ll care about them more than you,” Mr. Taylor responded.
As she concluded her cross-examination of Mr. Taylor today, Ms Hollis has this to say to the former president;
“And Mr. Taylor, at the beginning of your testimony on 14 July 2009, your defense counsel asked you if you were guilty of the charges on the indictment, and you said you were not guilty of all these charges, not even a minute part of these charges. Mr. Taylor, the tragic truth is that through your choices and through your actions, Mr. Taylor, you indeed are guilty of all the charges in this indictment against you. That’s the truth of it, isn’t it, Mr. Taylor?”
“I disagree. That’s not the truth of it. And that’s what you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt before these professional judges. I disagree,” Mr. Taylor responded.
“Madam president, the prosecution has no further questions at this time for this accused, former president Charles Ghankay Taylor,” Ms. Hollis concluded.
Mr. Taylor who is being tried for his alleged support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone commenced his testimony as a witness in his own defense on July 14, 2009. His cross-examination by prosecutors started in November 2008 with the court taking a one month recess on December 11, 2009. Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination resumed on January 11, 2010. Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel will start re-examination of the accused witness when court resumes on Monday, February 8, 2010.