Former Liberian president Charles Taylor did not form or contribute to any plan to commit crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, nor did he receive any diamonds from Sierra Leonean rebel forces as alleged by prosecutors, according to Mr. Taylor’s first witness.
Yanks Smythe has spent the last four days refuting prosecution allegations that Mr. Taylor aided and abetted Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels whose 11-year civil conflict in Sierra Leone saw the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Prosecutors have alleged that without stepping foot in his neighboring country, Mr. Taylor provided support to the RUF rebels through the supply of weapons in exchange for diamonds.
“Are you aware of Mr. Taylor during that period of time, himself committing any crimes within the territory of Sierra Leone?” defense lawyer Mr. Anyah asked the witness today.
“During those periods I was with Mr. Taylor, he never stepped foot in Sierra Leone so he couldn’t have committed those crimes in Sierra Leone,” Mr. Smythe said.
Mr. Anyah further asked the witness whether he was “aware of Mr. Taylor during that period of time being part of some sort of criminal enterprise or conspiracy the purpose of which was to commit a crime in Sierra Leone?”
“No I was never aware of Mr. Taylor being part of any of that, to commit crimes in Sierra Leone,” the witness responded.
“Are you aware of Mr. Taylor during that period of time in any way aiding and abetting, facilitating or furthering the commission of any crime in Sierra Leone?” Mr. Anyah pressed the witness further.
“I am not aware of Mr. Taylor doing any of those to commit crimes in Sierra Leone,” the witness again responded.
Mr. Smythe also refuted prosecution allegations that Mr. Taylor received huge supplies of diamonds from RUF rebels while he served as president of Liberia. During the presentation of the prosecution’s case, several witnesses testified that Mr. Taylor received diamonds from RUF commanders including Issa Sesay and Sam Bockarie. Some witnesses told the judges that members of Mr. Taylor’s security forces travelled to Sierra Leone to collect diamonds from RUF rebels for onward transmission to Mr. Taylor.
“I have never seen Mr. Taylor with diamonds, never heard of Mr. Taylor receiving diamonds from anyone during those periods,” Mr. Smythe said.
Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Mr. Anyah, focused specifically on the assertions of certain witnesses that diamonds transported from Sierra Leone were put in mayonnaise jars and handed over to Mr. Taylor. The witness said that no such thing ever happened.
“Have you ever seen Mr. Taylor receive a mayonnaise jar of diamonds?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
“I’ve never seen Mr. Taylor receiving a mayonnaise jar of diamonds,” Mr. Smythe responded.
“Have you heard or did you hear during that period of time of Mr. Taylor receiving diamonds in particular from any member of the RUF?” Mr. Anyah asked further.
“I have never heard of Mr. Taylor receiving diamonds from any member of the RUF,” Mr. Smythe responded.
At the end of today’s proceedings, Mr. Anyah brought the direct-examination of the witness to a close. Prosecutors will commence the cross-examination of the witness tomorrow.