A defense witness and former radio operator for Charles Taylor’s rebel group in Liberia today contradicted the former president’s account about the existence of radio stations belonging to the rebel group in Liberia. The witness also said that there were no communications between Mr. Taylor’s Liberian rebel group and Sierra Leonean rebels in the early 1990s, contrary to what Mr. Taylor himself had told the court in his testimony as a witness in his own defense.
Joseph Menson Dehmie, Mr. Taylor’s 12th defense witness who served as a radio operator for the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group, today told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges that he did not know anything about a radio station belonging to the NPFL that was called “Tree Top.” The witness, who has testified as being a senior radio operator for the NPFL, has, using a map of Liberia, identified the various posts where the NPFL installed communication radios and the names used for the said radio stations. However, he said today that he did not know about any NPFL radio station called “Tree Top.” As he was being cross-examined today, lead prosecutor, Ms. Brenda Hollis, sought to know why the former NPFL radio operator did not know about the existence of “Tree Top,” after Mr. Taylor himself, along with previous witnesses have testified about the radio’s existence.
“You have told the judges that you were a radio operator for the NPFL and you did not know about Tree Top?” Ms. Hollis asked the witness today.
In his response, the witness said that “I did not know any information about Tree Top, that is what I am telling you.”
Ms. Hollis pointed out that on September 19, 2009, Mr. Taylor himself, testifying as a witness in his own defense spoke about the radio station “Tree Top” when asked by his defense lawyers.
“Tree Top, to the best of my recollection – Tree Top was a radio – the principal – I think one of the principal radio posts in Gbarngha, if I am not mistaken, was called Tree Top,” Mr. Taylor told the court in September 2009.
Ms. Hollis also read from a February 24, 2010 transcript in which she quoted Mr. Taylor’s first defense witness Mr. Yanks Smythe, himself a former member of the NPFL who said that the “radio station Tree Top was located in Gbarngha.”
Mr. Dehmie still insisted that he did not know about “Tree Top.”
When asked to explain why is it that Mr. Taylor and Mr. Smythe knew about “Tree Top” but him, as the person who monitored radio communications on all NPFL radio stations did not know about it, Mr. Dehmie said that “Mr. Taylor was the leader, he was busy and did not remember everything.”
When Ms. Hollis asked him whether he was suggesting that Mr. Taylor had told the court the wrong thing about this radio station, the witness responded that “that is not what I am saying. I am telling you that I did not know about Tree Top.”
Mr. Taylor also in his testimony told the court that the NPFL maintained a radio station at Foya in Lofa County and that in the early days of the Sierra Leonean conflict in 1991-1992, there was radio communication between Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone and his NPFL in Liberia. Today, Mr. Dehmie denied the existence of any NPFL radio station at Foya, insisting also that there was no radio communication between the RUF and the NPFL in the early 1990s.
“There was no radio communication between Charles Taylor’s radio operators and RUF radio equipments,” Mr. Dehmie told the judges.
“I monitored all communications but I did not monitor any communication with the RUF,” Mr. Dehmie added.
When asked whether other people would be lying if they said there was communication between the two groups, Mr. Dehmie said “in my view, they will be lying because I did not monitor that, I did not know that.”
Ms. Hollis read from an October 27, 2009 transcript in which Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths asked him (Taylor) about radio communications with the RUF in the early 1990s.
“If you wanted to communicate some information to an individual in Sierra Leone, how would you do that?” Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Taylor in October 2009.
“I would instruct my radio operator Butterfly to transmit a message,” Mr. Taylor had responded.
When this was read out to Mr. Dehmie today, he responded that “I am not convinced that this is what Mr. Taylor said but if this is from Mr. Taylor, he would have communicated on a radio that I did not know about.”
When asked then whether “there were communications between the NPFL and outside groups that you did not know about,” Mr. Dehmie said that “I did not know about this, I cannot tell you.”
Mr. Dehmie is the 12th witness to have testified on behalf of Mr. Taylor, who is responding to charges that he provided support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone.
There will be no court hearings next week as the judges will be busy with the Plenary Meeting of Special Court for Sierra Leone judges. Mr. Dehmie’s testimony will continue on Monday May 31, 2010.