Charles Taylor’s defense witness today denied that he was taking bribes in exchange for evidence.
The protected Gambian witness, whose evidence was suspended on March 10, 2010 to give prosecutors more time to prepare for his cross-examination, took the stand again today. Prosecution counsel, Nicholas Koumjian, raised concerns about the amount of money the witness was receiving, and the possibility that the funds acted as an incentive for him to testify for the former president.
The witness, prosecutors said, has received 11,000 USD in total from the Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA) provided to him by the court since he arrived in The Hague to testify for Mr. Taylor. Mr. Koumjian also pointed out that the witness was lodged at one of the best hotels in The Netherlands.
The witness denied the prosecution allegation, saying that his Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA) and accommodation should not be looked at as a bribe to testify for Mr. Taylor.
“To my knowledge, all what I am receiving is for my subsistence while I am here in The Netherlands and it is not money that has been given to me as a bribe,” the witness said.
“It is a fact that most of the witnesses that have come here do not stay in hotels,” Mr. Koumjian responded, prompting Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, to object to the line of questioning on the ground that the prosecution’s suggestion “is totally unfair and uncalled for.”
“Moses Blah, the Vice President of Liberia, stayed in the same hotel that Yanks Smythe [Mr. Taylor’s first defense witness] stayed in and received DSA from the Witness and Victims Service (WVS). The suggestion that there is something, somehow, something improper about this witness receiving DSA, coming out of the mouth of Mr. Koumjian, in my submission, is totally erroneous and false,” Mr. Griffiths argued.
Mr. Koumjian also highlighted contradictions in the witness’ testimony with that of Mr. Taylor, specifically about the arrest of nationals of contributing countries to the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeeping forces in Liberia. In July 2009, Mr. Taylor testified that Nigerian nationals were picked up by his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group when ECOMOG forces started bombing NPFL territories in Liberia. The current witness has told the court that no West African nationals were arrested by the NPFL. Mr. Koumjian sought to know who was telling lies between Mr. Taylor and the witness.
“So Mr. Witness, who is the liar: Mr. Taylor when he says he did begin the process of picking up nationals of contributing countries and targeting Nigerians, or you?” Mr. Koumjian asked the witness.
In his response, the witness said that “now, if Taylor is lying, you can prove him to be lying but what I am telling you is the truth and I want you to understand that.”
Before court adjourned today, the judges granted permission for the witness to visit Mr. Taylor at his detention facility after the conclusion of his testimony. While prosecutors did not object to the visit, they asked that a detention facility representative be present at the meeting between the two men.
The witness’ cross-examination continues on Monday.