A Liberian business woman testifying on behalf of Charles Taylor today told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague that she received phone calls from several people asking to speak with Mr. Taylor after a prosecution witness told the court in 2008 that her mobile phone number was the number used by Mr. Taylor while he was president of Liberia. The phone number in question, the witness said, has never belonged to Mr. Taylor. Furthermore, the witness noted, it is her personal phone number that she has used since the cell phone company that the number is subscribed to started operations in Liberia in 2001.
In 2008, a protected prosecution witness told the court that a particular mobile phone number subscribed to the Liberian Mobile Phone Company Lonestar belonged to Mr. Taylor. The prosecution witness, who testified that Mr. Taylor provided support to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone, also said that he had been in personal communication with Mr. Taylor through the said mobile phone number.
In rebuttal, Mrs. Aleatha Korto Hoff, a Liberian businesswoman testifying as Mr. Taylor’s 16th witness, has told the court that the mobile phone number that the witness said belonged to Mr. Taylor actually belongs to her. Mrs. Hoff in her testimony said that when the Mobile Company Lonestar was launched in Liberia in 2001, she got her phone from her brother as part of the first set of phones that were distributed by the company. She said that she has maintained the same number since 2001. The witness explained that things took a twist when she realised that a prosecution witness had told judges in The Hague that her number belonged to Mr. Taylor.
Asked to tell the court when was the first time she received a call asking to speak to Mr. Taylor, the witness said that “it was on a Saturday when I was catering, when the first two or I think three calls came, saying that there was a trial going on, somebody said that that number was Charles Taylor’s number.”
“It was that time that I started receiving calls, and about six, eight months after that time, there was a foreign call, 1:30 that night, when somebody called and said “may I speak to Mr. Taylor,” I said this is not Mr. Taylor, he is in The Hague, and please don’t wake me up because you know where Mr. Taylor is,” Mrs. Hoff explained.
Under cross-examination, prosecutors, trying to establish bias in the witness’s account, asked her about her relatives who were close associates of Mr. Taylor. Prosecution counsel Mr. Nicholas Koumjian pointed out that the witness’s brother, Jenkins Dunbar, was a minister in Mr. Taylor’s government, her niece Bell Dunbar was the Director of the Liberian Petroleum Refinery Cooperation. Mr. Koumjian pointed out that the names of the two persons mentioned as the witness’s relatives were put on a United Nations Security Council Travel Ban list in 2005.
“You are a close supporter of Charles Taylor, right?” Mr. Koumjian put to the witness.
In her response, the witness said that “I’ve never been involved in government business. I am a private business woman.”
Mrs. Hoff also in her testimony told the court that on November 15, 2009, her phone was stolen. However, on the same day, she had gone to the Lonestar office and replaced the same number that she had used since 2001. Using a 2009 calendar, Mr. Koumjian pointed out that November 15 was on a Sunday, and the Lonestar office could not have been open.
Under re-direct examination, Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel Morris Anyah asked the witness whether she ever lost her phone between 2001 to 2003 during which time Mr. Taylor was in Liberia. The witness said “no.”
Mr. Anyah also asked the witness whether she had been insincere or untruthful in her testimony because her family members were part of Mr. Taylor’s government.
“The fact that your late brother acted as Minister in Mr. Taylor’s government, has that affected the sincerity or truthfulness of what you have told this court?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
“No,” the witness responded.
As Mrs. Hoff concluded her testimony, prosecutors indicated that they will be prepared to commence the cross-examination of defense witness DCT-190, whose cross-examination was put on hold yesterday.
YOUR HORNORS, WITH YOUR INDULGENCE, IF THE EVIDENCE IS NOT THERE, YOU MUST ACQUIT!
Trouble the Persecution/Court is having is defining who is a Liberian and who is a Sierra Leone. That fact should have being established from the onset of this trial. The Constitutions of both countries (someone correct me if I am wrong) allows for a children born in either country, or whose parents are citizens to be consider citizen until upon or after reaching the age of adulthood (18, I believe) declare thier citizenship and the law of either country provide a process to accomplish that.
Now the question I will ask, were RUF fighters legally Liberians or Sierra Leoneans? I hope i will be indulge with an answer.
Mrs.Aleatha Korto Hoff, has again like all other defense witnesses lied and contradicted herself ie, when the lone star phone was lunch in 2001 in Liberia, She Aleatha was given the phone by her brother Jankins Dunbar who was a minister in the Taylor government,and some time ago on November 15, 2009, her phone was stolen and she had gone the same day to the lone star phone office and replaced it with the same number, only to be told by Mr.Koumjain that according to the calendar that particular day was a sunday, and I think Aki, Noko4,& other Taylor supporters will agreed that offices both Businesses and governmentals offices are closed on sundays in Liberia.Mr.Koumjain exposure of this witness has undermind her criditbillity, and reducing her to one of the benefactors of the Taylor regime, who came to do darmage control and has been busted, which is a sign of coverups associated with guilt and GUILTY! it will be…
I will have read the transcript before I can comment on the date that she said she got the number. I am sure if she said on the same day or she when and got the same number.
What has the date she lost her phone got to do with the credibility of Mrs Hoff? she was brought by the defence as a witness to discredit prosecution witness evidence who lied to the court about having Charles Taylor’s direct Telephone number. well the telephone number given by that prosecution witness turns out to be that of Mrs Hoff and not Mr Taylor. So pray tell me Ziggy how did Mrs Hoff turn out to be the owner of the telephone number and not Mr Taylor? she gave evidence that she has been using the number since 2001 and the prosecution witness claimed that she used to communite with Mr Taylor on that same number during 2000 to 2002. Ziggy can you explain how that is possible? even the prosecution could not come up with a credible reason why Mr Taylor should be using the same telephone number as that of Mrs Hoff when he is not her husband or she is not his personal assistant.
Now about her relationship with a minister in mr Taylor’s government, can you help the prosecution to explain how that relationship translates into her being in possession of and in fact her using Mr Taylor’s telephone number as her own number?
Well from the foregoing it will take a complete nuthead to think that the prosecution witness’ claim about having Mr Taylor’s direct number is true. So Ziggy what the defence is doing is that they are poking holes consistently in the prosecution case in other words raising doubts in the prosecution case. Like I have been consistently maintained, inconsistency in testimony damages the prosecution case more than it would damage the defence case because the prosecution have the burden of proof and not the defence.
She being a sister to Jenkins doesn’t prove that her testimony is a lie. This lady has been using that number since lonestar came to Liberia and you might want to say i am one of his supporters too and i wouldn’t mine but i will emphasize lets preach the truth. Taylor, couldn’t have been using that number there is a trick somewhere and i am not surprise by that because the IC can can go to any extend.
Another wasted day. Why can’t the prosecutors bring a witness with a call log to prove that the mobile number belongs to Mr. Taylor and the both sometimes communicated. I think this will better help the prosecutors to stop asking stupid questions like are you a close associate of Taylor?
Harris K Johnson
Can call logs be obtained in Liberia?
They can ask lonestar cell to prove it…. there could be others know knew the number Mr. Taylor used.
Just because someone work with a government doesn’t mean that their families are in support of that government! If that’s case then, there will be justice!
Maybe, also we should investigate if taylor did not have his elbow, also, into phone business, and not just in illigal loggings, diamonds, timber, gold, and alledged part in human traficking by indirectly creating crisis that had refugees fleeing in massive numbers to sometimes hustile regions! Do you guys have any feelings for the sufferings this guy caused your people? Give me a break! Taylor lovers seem to be the most insensitive individuals in africa!You guys should never be given chance to hold public positions of trust in Africa!
The relationship between this witness and Taylor raises the red flag on her credibility.
The relationship is just too close for her testmony to be credible.
I am not sure why this witness is being paraded by the defense as her presence and claims could help the persecution and hurt the defense. This is unbelievable – we are talking about Liberia and who controls government and have share in cell phones companies!!!
What relationship is there between Charles Taylor and this witness. She said in court that she has only met Charles Taylor on two occasions. Because her brother worked for Taylor does that mean Taylor could use her phone anytime he wanted too? This witness was very credible. Yes she might have mistook the date she went to retrieve her number but what does her phone getting stolen have to do with this case?
What has “phone getting stolen has to do with this case?”
A whole lot as it could most probably reveal attempts by this coached witness to both cover up evidence and lie under oath. (Note: witness are found and interviewed not by the jury or judges but the prosecution and defense teams and they are sometimes coached before they take the stand…and then during the direct examination, they respond to controlled questions only.)
How distant was her brother from Taylor?
How close – inner cycle?
Who control that particular mobile phone network/company in Liberia – protégées of Taylor or non-Taylor supporters?
Can a cell phone number be given to another person to cover up tracks – Yes! (I have to answer this one for you because this is Liberia and anything can happen. In fact, even in the West phone companies recycle numbers, periodically given a previous owner’s to a new customer.)
While I have no evidentiary or material evidence, but totally relying on this witness claims as well as relying on experiential knowledge, I will argue this number could have been Taylor’s number given to this lady by Taylor loyalists who I think still control certain mobile phone companies to cover up tracks when it became obvious it will come up in court.
Since this is common in our political life as was the case with Tubman, Tolbert, and Doe, I will postulate the following – this witness could have been one of the romantic partners of Taylor who received this number to stay in contact with her partner.
I just wanted to pick up on one issue you raised: that of “coached witnesses.” Lawyers are not allowed to coach their witnesses on what to say in court — it is against their ethical obligations as lawyers. IN some courts, like the Special Court for Sierra Leone, lawyers can, however, prepare or “proof” the witness — meaning they can run through the types of questions and issues they will traverse while the witness is on the stand, as well as familiarize the witness with the courtroom process — but they are not allowed to coach the witness on what to say, as that would be seen as tainting the evidence, and the judges could sanction the lawyers if it emerged that witnesses were coached on what to say. In some courts, this “proofing” is not allowed as it is seen as being too close to coaching for comfort (in fact, it has been an issue at the ICC). So far, however, the judges have not raised any concerns about witnesses being coached as far as I am aware.
Interesting issue to think about, though, isn’t it? Curious about your thoughts on it.
Thanks for your legal perspective.
I spoke from personal experiantial angle…legal sanctioned are sometimes circumvented by smart lawyers. Examples…
Good Catch Mr. KoumJain! Lies are never cohesive when facing the might truth.
Mrs. Holf, probably , asked the papay to make Lone Star Cell Company to open up its doors on that faithful sunday only to meet her need.
Even if Mr. Taylor did what you accuse him of still, do not make that number his and not the witness. The prosecution is still way out of the timeframe, which the defense pointed out.
Why all these noise about obtaining a SIM card on a Sunday is work of any kind prohibited on Sunday by law in Liberia? The answer is NO. In Liberia anything is possible once you have the cash. This woman is not just a house wife who just sits home like many other African women, but a successful business woman that has cash at work. It is very possible for a technician at LoneStar to have opened doors for her on a Sunday. I think the question would have been who did you meet at LoneStar on that day? instead of making noise about the possibility of work on Sunday in Liberia. No VEM, this is not a good catch, but an outside down catch which is not good at all.
Harris K Johnson
For your information, Our brother Taylor used friends, relaties, girlfriends, etc to conduct business. It is possible that this lady had the phone registered in her name for our brother to use. The guy knew that one day he would face questions, thats why he put nothing in his own name and could challenge the UN to find any account anywhere in his name. Our brother may go free, but some of us know him and his tricks extremely well. How can Taylor make breaks for Urey, Shaw, etc and not get any for himself and his family? Go figure.
Your post here is far from the truth. I personally know of three mobile phone numbers that were registered in the name of Mr. Taylor and were all used by him while serving as president in Liberia. You could help the court by providing evidence that the number belongs to Mr. Taylor. We have done our part by proving that Mr. Taylor did not own the number by brining the living owner in court. Remember the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the prosecution.
Harris K Johnson
Dear Mr. President,
It has been too long since you left us. The ordinary people that you so much represent think of you everyday. We wish for your arrival. and the day you will do so, there will be an earthquake in Liberia. You are our eyes opener. The greatest population that you lead here into Monrovia has continue to grow big. Not only that but, we are following you vision to think big. Every new community we go in, concrete buildings are errected. We continue to advance. We are selling peppers that our children go to school. We miss you. If you had been here, You alway be very much continuous closer to us. But even if they kill you now, you remain the most popular politician in our time. And your inspiration lives on. REMEMBER, YOU BROUGHT MORE ORDINARY PEOPLE TO PROMINENCE than noone else. .
Have my sympathy, Liberty. Taylor, definitely shares your concerns, and “God willing he will be back” to rule you so you can have what little you have left , probably, taken away. But don’t worry because the world will come to Liberia aid once more, and, perhaps, free your balance debts that are unpaid at the end of Ellen’e second term! Bravo! These are matured thinkings we lack and have suffered all the consequences at the hands of taylor types in Africa!
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