Neither Charles Taylor nor his security forces supported or participated in the Sierra Leonean rebel attack on the country’s capital Freetown in 1999, the Special Court for Sierra Leone heard today as Mr. Taylor’s first defense witness ended his testimony.
Mr. Yanks’ testimony – consistent on this point with Mr. Taylor’s own testimony — stands in contrast to that of several prosecution witnesses, who had testified that the former Liberian president provided the support needed for the rebels to attack Freetown. Prosecution witnesses had also testified that both Mr. Taylor and his Special Security Services (SSS) director, Benjamin Yeaten, were in radio contact with one of the top Sierra Leonean rebels, Sam Bockarie, during the attack. In his re-examination today, Mr. Smythe dismissed the allegations as lies, adding that no member of Mr. Taylor’s security apparatus travelled to Sierra Leone for the operation.
“To your knowledge, did Benjamin Yeaten travel overseas at any point in time around the first week of January in 1999?” Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Morris Anyah, asked the witness.
“I’m not aware of him making any trip outside of Liberia at that time,” Mr. Smythe said.
“To your knowledge, were any employees or members of the SSS during that period of time engaged in any fighting in Sierra Leone?” Mr. Anyah asked.
“No, to my knowledge, none of the SSS were involved in any fighting in Sierra Leone,” the witness responded.
Seeking to clarify the issues further, Mr. Anyah asked the witness whether “to your knowledge, were any members of the SSS, in particular Benjamin Yeaten, engaged in any radio communications with persons in Sierra Leone during that period of time?”
Again, Mr. Smythe responded that “to my knowledge, no.”
My. Smythe also today told the court that a document bearing the name and signature of Mr. Yeaten did not reflect the correct spelling and signature of the former SSS director’s name. In his 2008 testimony for the prosecution, Abu Keita, who reportedly served in Mr. Taylor’s government in Liberia, testified to the authenticity of a document titled ‘Operation Orders’ and attested that the document bore Mr. Yeaten’s name and signature. During his re-examination today, Mr. Smythe told the court that the name Benjamin had been misspelled and that the signature did not reflect that of Mr. Yeaten’s as he knew it. Mr. Anyah sought to clarify the issue.
“In the time you were assistant director for operations when you worked with Benjamin Yeaten, have you ever know him to sign a document containing an incorrect spelling of his name?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
In his response, the witness said that “no, I’ve never known him to sign any document containing an incorrect spelling of his name.”
Looking at the document that bore Mr. Yeaten’s name, the witness observed: “that doesn’t look like Benjamin Yeaten’s handwriting.”
As Mr. Smythe concluded his testimony, Mr. Taylor’s defense team called the next witness to testify in defense of the former president. The witness, with pseudonym number DCT-125 will testify as a protected witness because, like some prosecution witnesses, security reasons demanded that his identity not be revealed to the public. The witness testified mostly in private session with the exclusion of the general public. For the short periods that his testimony moved from private session, the witness testified with voice and image distortion measures. Voice and image distortion measures ensure that the witness’s voice and image are not identified by members of the public.
DCT-125’s testimony continues tomorrow.