A witness for Charles Taylor said today that she neither saw nor heard any evidence that the former Liberian president provided support to Sierra Leonean rebels during the country’s 11-year civil conflict. The witness also dismissed the evidence of key prosecution witnesses who testified about Mr. Taylor’s links to the rebel forces in Sierra Leone as “lies”.
Isatu Kallon, a Sierra Leonean business woman who said she gave support to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone, has spent days telling the Special Court for Sierra Leone about the role she played in helping RUF leader Foday Sankoh to recruit fighters in Liberia, and the rebel group’s battle for the control of Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002. She has continuously denied any knowledge of Charles Taylor’s involvement with the rebel forces.
“During the entire time that you interacted with Foday Sankoh, did the name Charles Taylor come up, did he ever mention the name Charles Taylor?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness today in a direct question and answer session.
“Never,” Mrs. Kallon said.
“While you were in Liberia, did you ever see he and Charles Taylor together?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
“Never,” the witness said.
“You mentioned efforts made by yourself to purchase arms and ammunition for the RUF…did you hear of any instance when Charles Taylor is said to have given RUF arms?” Mr. Anyah pressed further.
“I never saw that happen. I did not hear about it,” answered Mrs. Kallon.
When asked again whether she ever heard anyone say that he was sent to fight in Sierra Leone by Mr. Taylor, the witness said “no.”
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Taylor bears individual criminal responsibility for the crimes committed by RUF rebels in Sierra Leone because he allegedly instigated and helped to plan the operations of the RUF in their battle for territory of Sierra Leone including the country’s diamond fields. Prosecutors say that Mr. Taylor served as the main source of support for the Sierra Leonean rebels before and after the invasion of Sierra Leone in 1991. Mr. Taylor’s defense team has been trying to cast doubt on these allegations through the testimony of witnesses such as Mrs. Kallon.
Today Mrs. Kallon also responded directly to the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who testified in 2008 about Mr. Taylor’s alleged involvement with the RUF.
In February 2008, a former RUF radio operator Perry Kamara, commonly known as King Perry, testified that Mr. Sankoh sought advice from Mr. Taylor on a regular basis and that any time Mr. Taylor gave such advice, the RUF would launch a major operation.
“Mr. Sankoh was always advised by Mr. Taylor. At anytime Mr. Sankoh received advice from Mr. Taylor, we would undertake a serious attack,” King Perry said in February 2008.
He said that such operations based on Mr. Taylor’s advice included the RUF attacks on the mining fields in Kono in the Eastern Province, and Sierra Rutile Mines in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone.
“Are you aware of this particular mission that Perry Kamara was talking about?” Mr. Anyah today asked Mrs. Kallon.
“I don’t know about this one,” the witness said.
The witness also refuted claims by another prosecution witness, Isaac Mongor, who in March 2008 testified that it was Mr. Taylor who sent him to train RUF fighters at Camp Naama in Liberia.
When asked whether Mr. Mongor had ever mentioned to her that he had been sent by Mr. Taylor to conduct the said training at Camp Naama, the witness said “no.”
She added, however, that Mr. Mongo told her “that he went to Camp Naama to help Mohamed [another RUF commander] and others to train the boys [RUF fighters].”
According to Mrs. Kallon, Mr. Mongor lied when he testified that he was close to Mr. Sankoh, even before the invasion of Sierra Leone.
“Isaac was just a mere bodyguard to John Kargbo [a rebel commander in Liberia],” Mrs. Kallon said.
Mrs. Kallon’s testimony continues on Wednesday.