Liberians who formed part of Sierra Leone’s rebel forces that wreaked havoc in the war-torn West African country were not members of Charles Taylor’s own rebel group and had no communications with the former Liberian president, a defense witness said today.
Martin Flomo George, a Liberian national and former Brigade Commander for the Sierra Leonean Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, today told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that he and other Liberian RUF members were not sent to Sierra Leone by Mr. Taylor, and had no contact with him while they were part of the fighting force in their neighboring country.
“No. We never had communication with Charles Taylor,” Mr. George told the court.
Prosecutors have alleged that members of Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group fought alongside RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. These Liberian rebels, prosecutors have alleged, were sent to Sierra Leone by Mr. Taylor as part of his involvement in a joint criminal enterprise with RUF rebel forces. Prosecution witnesses, including RUF radio operators, have testified before Special Court to Sierra Leone judges that the RUF commanders such as Isaac Mongor used to communicate with Mr. Taylor and his troops in Liberia. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations, saying that he never sent Liberian nationals to fight in Sierra Leone, that those Liberian nationals who went to Sierra Leone did not go there on his command, and that they did not have any communications with him.
Mr. George, a Liberian national himself and former member of the RUF today corroborated Mr. Taylor’s account. Responding to a question from Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Morris Anyah, as to whether Liberian nationals, especially Mr. Mongor, a former prosecution witness, Liberian national and senior commander in the RUF, communicated with Mr. Taylor, Mr. George told the court:
“While we were in the jungle, I never saw Isaac talking to Charles Taylor on the radio or even giving him message about any situation concerning the RUF war, never, no.”
Prosecutors have alleged that RUF commanders used to communicate regularly with Mr. Taylor’s Director of Special Security Services (SSS), Benjamin Yeaten. Today, Mr. Anyah sought to know whether such communication did take place with any other commanders in Liberia apart from Mr. Taylor. The witness today said this was never the case.
“Besides Charles Taylor, did he [Isaac Mongor] talk to someone else in Charles Taylor’s administration? Benjamin Yeaten, for example, or anyone else associated with Charles Taylor’s government in Liberia?” Mr. Anyah asked.
“At the time we were in the northern jungle, I never saw him [Isaac Mongor] communicating with Charles Taylor or any other Charles Taylor’s commanders for that matter,” Mr. George said.
Mr. Mongor, in his April 2008 testimony as a prosecution witness, said that he was first a member of Mr. Taylor’s NPFL. In the NPFL, he said he served as a bodyguard before he was asked by Mr. Taylor to join RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, and help train RUF fighters for the invasion of Sierra Leone. Mr. Mongor, who later became a senior RUF commander, said the RUF leadership used to communicate with Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor, in his own testimony, denied these accounts. As one of the Liberians who fought as a member of the RUF, Mr. George is now corroborating Mr. Taylor’s account.
Prosecutors will cross-examine Mr. George tomorrow.