Charles Taylor’s first witness who is presently testifying in his defense has contradicted the former president’s testimony about disciplinary actions taken against the former director of Mr. Taylor’s Special Security Services (SSS).
Mr. Yanks Smythe, who has been testifying for Mr. Taylor over the past three days today told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges that Mr. Taylor took disciplinary actions against the director of the SSS Benjamin Yeaten for the arrest and subsequent execution of Mr. Samuel Dokie and his family.
During his February 2009 cross-examination by prosecutors, Mr. Taylor told the judges that the arrest and execution of Mr. Dokie and his family was not ordered by Mr. Yeaten as alleged by prosecutors. The former president said that those responsible for the arrest and execution of the Dokie family did so without the orders of Mr. Yeaten and that those responsible were indeed punished, but no action was taken against Mr. Yeaten because he did not bear any responsibility for such actions. In his testimony today, Mr. Taylor’s own witness, Mr. Smythe contradicted the former president’s account. According to Mr. Smythe, Mr. Yeaten was indeed suspended by Mr. Taylor for ordering the arrest of Mr. Dokie and his family, which subsequently led to their execution.
“Benjamin was suspended by the president, president Taylor,” the witness said.
Asked by Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel whether he knew why Mr. Yeaten was suspended by Mr. Taylor, the witness said that “he was suspended because he ordered the arrest of Dokie, and that was not an instruction from Mr. Taylor.”
The witness said that Mr. Yeaten was suspended by the former president for his actions. In response to whether he knew how long the suspension lasted, the witness said that “no, I don’t know how long but it took some time, when the investigation was on.”
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Taylor was responsible for the arrests and executions of several of his opponents including Mr. Dokie and his family. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations. Prosecutors have further alleged that when Mr. Taylor knew that certain unlawful actions were taken by forces subbordinate to him, he did not take any action to punish those responsible. It is in this light that Mr. Taylor denied ordering the arrest and execution of the Dokies, explaining that those responsible were punished accordingly. When prosecutors pointed out that Mr. Yeaten was not punished, Mr. Taylor denied any responsibility by his SSS director. Prosecutors pointed out evidence of this nature in order to convince the judges that just like he ignored unlawful actions taken by his forces in Liberia, Mr. Taylor also gave a blind eye to the crimes committed by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor is alleged to have had control over the actions of RUF rebels whose 11-years rebel war in Sierra Leone saw the commission of heineous crimes including rape, use of child soldiers, and murder. Mr. Taylor has dismissed the allegations against him as false.
Also in his testimony today, Mr. Smythe told the judges that former prosecution witness Joseph Zig Zag Marzah was not a member of the SSS but a mere bodygaurd to the SSS director Mr. Yeaten. The witness said that Mr. Marzah did not have any access to Mr. Taylor. The witness’s account corroborates Mr. Taylor’s testimony that Mr. Marzah was an ordinary orderly to Mr. Yeaten with whom he could not have interacted. In his 2008 testimony for the prosecution, Mr. Marzah told the judges that he was an SSS officer who had unhindered access to Mr. Taylor and that on numerous occassions he acted on direct instructions from the former president to take arms and ammunitions to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Marzah also said that he sat in the company of Mr. Taylor and together, they feasted on human intestines. Mr. Taylor in his testimony dismissed the witness’s accounts as lies. Mr. Smythe said the same thing today.
“No he was not a member of the SSS…I only knew him to be bodyguard to Mr. Yeaten, that’s all,” Mr. Smythe said.
The witness added that Mr. Marzah was not part of any structure within the SSS or the Liberian government. He said that Mr. Marzah was employed privately by Mr. Yeaten.
“He is employed privately by Benjamin Yeaten.”
Mr. Smythe’s testimony continues tomorrow.