A defense witness for Charles Taylor has dismissed prosecution assertions that his testimony is contradicting that of the former Liberian president, telling the court that neither him, nor Mr. Taylor, is lying to the judges.
Between July 2009 and February 2010, Mr. Taylor, who stands accused of supporting Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, testified as a witness in his own defense. After the completing his testimony, Mr. Taylor’s first witness has been Yanks Smythe — a Gambian national who became a Liberian citizen and was appointed by Mr. Taylor as Liberian charge d’affaires to Libya and Tunisia in the late 1990s. Mr. Smythe has been rebutting prosecution evidence that the former Liberian president provided support to RUF rebels through the supply of arms and ammunition to the rebels in return for Sierra Leone’s blood diamonds. The witness has also been responding to questions about Mr. Taylor’s activities as leader of his rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), and as president of Liberia.
During today’s cross-examination, prosecution counsel Nicholas Koumjian questioned the witness about Mr. Taylor’s presence in the former NPFL headquarter town of Gbangha. According to Mr. Koumjian, the witness seemed to be contradicting what the former president said in his own testimony. Mr. Koumjian suggested to the witness that in October 1996, Mr. Taylor moved to Gbangha and instructed RUF leader Foday Sankoh via a radio message to go and acquire arms for the RUF. After agreeing with Mr. Koumjian that Mr. Taylor did indeed go to Gbangha in October 1996, the prosecutor read a portion of Mr. Taylor’s previous testimony in which the former president had denied ever going to Gbangha during that period. Upon hearing what Mr. Taylor said about the same incident in his testimony, Mr. Smythe sought to clarify his response, saying that he was in agreement with Mr. Taylor’s account.
“You just told us Charles Taylor moved to Gbangha after the 31st of October 1996, was that correct?” Mr. Koumjian asked the witness.
The witness responded that “when there was an attack on his life, he left Monrovia during that period and he went to Gbangha but he never stayed there, he came back to Monrovia, this is what I am saying.”
“Sir, who is lying when we talk about Charles Taylor being in Gbangha in 1996, you or Charles Taylor,” Mr. Koumjian again asked the witness.
“Nobody is lying here,” the witness responded.
Mr. Koumjian further asked the witness that “when Charles Taylor says ‘I am not in Gbangha in 1996,’ that is a lie, correct?”
“That is not a lie, that is not a lie,” the witness insisted.
As Mr. Koumjian pressed to know whether Mr. Taylor was “in Gbangha in 1996,” the witness explained that “when Charles Taylor was attacked in Monrovia, he went to Gbangha briefly and came back to Monrovia.”
As Mr. Taylor’s defense lawyers now lead their witnesses to rebut the evidence of prosecution witnesses, prosecutors will also seek to discredit the evidence of such defense witnesses through cross-examination. In said cross-examination, prosecutors will seek to discredit the testimony of defense witnesses, just like Mr. Taylor’s defense lawyers did with prosecution witnesses. It is in this light that prosecutors have been pushing to point out that Mr. Smythe’s testimony is contradicting some aspects of Mr. Taylor’s prior testimony.
Also in his cross-examination today, Mr. Koumjian attempted to point out that Mr. Smythe’s evidence that Mr. Taylor’s personal security personnel had heavy weapons contradicted that of the former president’s — who prosecutors say told the court on September 30, 2009 that he did not even have arms and ammunition to give his personal security personnel and so could not have had same to supply RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor testified that the United Nations took away all his arms and ammunition during the disarmament process in Liberia. Mr. Koumjian today asked the witness to describe the kinds of weapons that Mr. Taylor’s personal security carried.
“That weapon is ah, I think its GMG,” the witness said, adding that GMG means “General Machine Gun.”
Asked whether it was an “anti-aircraft type of weapon,” the witness responded that “I don’t know what you are talking about, I know it’s GMG , General Machine Gun.”
“And it was actually somehow fixed to the back of like a Pick Up truck, correct?” Mr. Koumjian enquired further.
“It’s in a Pick Up truck,” the witness responded.
Mr. Taylor during his testimony told the court that he never had an anti-aircraft weapon during the entire period of the Liberian conflict.
Mr. Smythe’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.