Prosecutors today pointed out that there have been several inconsistences in the written statements made to defense lawyers and the oral testimony given in court by Charles Taylor’s fifteenth witness whose cross-examination resumed today, having being put on hold on after the witness concluded his direct examination about two weeks ago.
On June 8 2010, Special Court for Sierra Leone judges suspended the cross-examination of Mr. Taylor’s witness DCT-190 on the basis that the witness’s statements which were disclosed to prosecutors by defense lawyers were “grossly inadequate.”
The witness in his direct-examination told the court about being involved in fighting in the West African sub-region for the past fifteen years, having been a member of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) rebel group, a rival rebel faction which fought against Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group, was recruited into the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) of Sierra Leone with an aim of fighting against rebel forces in Sierra Leone, and was recruited as part of the Liberians United For Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), a rebel group which fought to topple the government of Mr. Taylor while he served as president of Liberia.
Today, prosecution counsel Katherine Howarth sought to establish that the witness has given inconsistent accounts to defense lawyers and Special Court for Sierra Leone judges.
Ms. Howarth pointed out that in his brifieng notes with Mr. Taylor’s lead defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths on June 6 2010, the witness said that LURD forces dispelled attacks by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in the Guinean town of Gekeidou. The witness denied saying this to Mr. Griffiths and insisted that a mistake had been made.
In his written statement, the witness was quoted to have said “we attacked Gekeidou to push RUF back into Sierra Leone.”
The witness responded that “It might have been a mistake.”
“It was after disarmament that we travelled. By that time, RUF had disarmed…we took this operation after disarment,” he added.
When put to him that he was “changing his story before these judges,” the witness said that “i am not changing my story.”
“You are saying one thing to the judges and a completely different thing to your lawyers,” Ms. Howarth put to the witness.
“I am telling you there is a mistake somewhere,” the witness responded.
Prosecutors have long stated and witnesses have testified that while Mr. Taylor served as president of Liberia, he sent RUF fighters to attack Guinea. Prosecutors now seek to establish that the witness is changing his account because an admission that LURD had pushed RUF out of Gekeidou will give credence to accounts that Mr. Taylor indeed sent the RUF to attack Guinea.
Ms. Howarth therefore put to the witness that “you know very well that the RUF attacked Gekeidou on behalf of Mr. Taylor.”
The witness responded that he could not say that this was the case.
Ms. Howarth again pointed out that in his written statements to defense lawyers, he had stated that in 1992, NPFL fighters helped RUF rebels in attacking Pujehun in southern Sierra Leone.
“There were some NPFL elements assisting the RUF at this time ,” the witness was quoted in a June 6 2010 statement made to Mr. Griffiths.
When prosecutors commenced his cross-examination on June 10 2010, the witness told the court that he “never said NPFL elements were assisting RUF in Pujehun” at the end of 1992.
Ms. Howarth again put to the witness that “you are contradicting everything that you’ve been saying in this court.”
In his response, the witness said that “this written statement, i am not very convinient with it.”
This prompted a question from Justice Richard Lussick to the witness that “are you saying you didn’t tell your lawyer that?”
“That is correct,” the witness responded.
When asked whether this had been made up by Mr. Griffiths, the witness said “that’s a question for Mr. Griffiths.”
“You don’t want to say that now because you don’t want to incriminate Mr. Taylor,” Ms. Howarth put to the witness.
“In the first place, this is my first time of seeing Mr. Taylor and so i have nothing to hold back for Mr. Taylor,” the witness said.
Ms. Howarth also pointed out that in the witness’s direct-examination, he told the court that LURD leader Sekou Damate Conneh informed him in June 2003 that Liberian journalist Hassan Bility had called from Monrovia to inform them that Mr. Taylor’s forces were running out of ammunition and so the time was ripe to attack the Liberian capital. The prosecutor put to the witness that the last time Mr. Bility was arrested in Liberia was in June 2002 and upon his release and based on a condition given by Mr. Taylor, Mr. Bility was taken out of the country in December 2002.
Ms. Howarth told the witness that “Mr. Bility was completely out of the picture and was in the USA” by June 2003.
The witness explained that he never spoke to Mr. Bility but that he had been briefed by Mr. Conneh who said he had spoken with Mr. Bility.
As prosecutors highlight inconsistencies in the witness’s accounts, they seek discredit the witness and establish to the judges that he is not credible and so his testimony cannot be relied on. It will be left with the judges to determine the authenticity of the witness’s testimony.
DCT-190’s cross-examination continues on Monday.