Former Liberian president Charles Taylor had no knowledge that his Director of Special Security Services had a close friendship with a Sierra Leonean rebel commander in 1998, a Liberian national testifying on behalf of Mr. Taylor told the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague today.
The witness, who worked as a radio operator in the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group and later in Mr. Taylor’s Executive Mansion under the Special Security Services (SSS) division, is testifying with partial protective measures and is only identified by the pseudonym DCT-008. Today, he told the court about the communications that took place between the radio station installed at the residence of Benjamin Yeaten, who was Director of the SSS, and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander Sam Bockarie’s radio station installed at the RUF headquarters in Buedu, eastern Sierra Leone. The witness told the court that Mr. Taylor did not know about the contact and friendship that existed between Mr. Yeaten and Mr. Bockarie.
Several prosecution witnesses, including former RUF radio operators, have testified about radio communications between Mr. Bockarie and Mr. Yeaten. These communications were facilitated through Mr. Bockarie’s radio operator called Sellay and a radio operator named Sunlight, who operated a radio at Mr. Yeaten’s residence in Liberia, prosecution witnesses have said. They further told the court that Mr. Taylor had knowledge of these contacts, and it was through Mr. Yeaten that Mr. Taylor facilitated most of his communications and assistance to RUF commanders. Today, the witness, a former radio operator in Liberia, said this was not the case.
Explaining the nature of the radio contact that took place between Mr. Yeaten and the RUF, the witness told the court that “while Sunlight was operating the radio at the SSS Director’s residence…one day, Samson came along with…Daniel Tamba, also called Jungle.”
“Samson introduced Daniel Tamba to Sunlight saying the Chief [Yeaten] said I should bring this fellow to you so he can call Sierra Leone. He is a member of the RUF and he is one of [RUF leader Foday] Sankoh’s boys…Jungle gave a piece of paper to Sunlight with a call sign for the RUF operator Sellay.”
Samson, the witness said, was a former NPFL fighter, who was also one of the officers working under Mr. Yeaten in the SSS.
According to DCT-008, “[Samson] also said he had taken Jungle to the Executive Mansion for Jungle to communicate with the RUF in Sierra Leone.”
He said that Samson had been working with another radio operator at the Executive Mansion called William Jimmy, who helped them communicate secretly with the RUF in Sierra Leone.
“Samson said they were hiding it and the [Liberian] government did not know about it, not even the president,” the witness said.
When Sunlight discussed this with Mr. Yeaten, the SSS Director gave his consent to the contact with the RUF, telling Sunlight that nobody knew of such relationship that he had with the RUF.
“After the communication, when Benjamin Yeaten came home that evening, Sunlight told Benjamin Yeaten that Samson brought Jungle here so that Sunlight will connect him to Sierra Leone, and then Benjamin Yeaten told Sunlight that I have a friend in Sierra Leone and you should allow him to communicate with Sierra Leone anytime they come here,” the witness explained.
“Later, I got to know that [the friend] was Sam Bockarie,” he added.
When asked whether “Charles Taylor [was] aware of this,” the witness said, “No.”
“Charles Taylor did not know because Benjamin Yeaten told Sunlight that what I have told you should be kept to yourself and you must not share it with any other government radio operator…because this relationship between Sam Bockarie and myself, the president does not know about it and you should keep it to yourself,” the witness explained.
The witness said Mr. Yeaten added in his discussion with Sunlight that “if this information gets to anyone and the president knows about it, he will deal with me and I’ll be finished.”
“That’s how I came to know that the president did not know about it,” he said.
When asked about the nature of the friendship that existed between Mr. Yeaten and Mr. Bockarie, the witness said, “The friendship was so cordial, they were very close.
In response to allegations that RUF commanders, including Mr. Bockarie, made regular trips to Liberia and returned with arms and ammunition to Sierra Leone and that members of Mr. Taylor’s security apparatus had close links with RUF commanders, Mr. Taylor has told the court that as president of Liberia, he could not have known all the things that members of his security forces or his government did. These men could have had independent relationships or arms trade with the RUF without his knowledge, Mr. Taylor has stated. Today, the witness corroborated Mr. Taylor’s account when he told the court that Mr. Taylor did not know about the relationship that existed between the RUF members and Liberian security forces, including Mr. Yeaten and Samson.
Today’s witness was interposed in place of Issa Hassan Sesay, the former interim leader of the RUF, who has been testifying on behalf of Mr. Taylor for the past several weeks. Mr. Sesay could not be in court today because he had a dentist appointment. If Mr. Sesay is available tomorrow, then prosecutors will continue his cross-examination. If he is absent, DCT-008 will continue his testimony for the defense.