As prosecutors concluded his cross-examination today, Issa Hassan Sesay, the convicted former interim leader of Sierra Leone’s main rebel group told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague that he did not know and does not believe that Charles Taylor sent men to kill him while he was trying to disarm rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Mr. Sesay also dismissed suggestions that he is testifying for Mr. Taylor because he hopes that the former Liberian president, if acquitted, will help free him from his 52 years jail sentence in Rwanda.
Prosecution counsel Nicholas Koumjian in concluding Mr. Sesay’s cross-examination today put to the witness that it was Mr. Taylor’s practice to execute people with whom he had disagreements and so when Mr. Sesay decided to disarm the RUF in Sierra Leone much to Mr. Taylor’s disagreement, the former Liberian president sent men to kill him inside Sierra Leone. Mr. Sesay dismissed this suggestion as false.
“Charles Taylor was unhappy with your decision to cooperate with the United Nations and at some point he sent men to kill you, did you know that?” Mr. Koumjian asked Mr. Sesay.
“No,” Mr. Sesay said. “I did not know that, i did not hear that and i don’t believe that Charles Taylor wanted to hill me because Charles Taylor was one of those encouraging me to disarm.”
Mr. Koumjian read from a March 12 2008 evidence of former fighter of Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group Joseph Zig Zag Marzah who told the court that Mr. Taylor had ordered him to executed Mr. Sesay.
“…I crossed over to Pendembu in the Kailahun District to wait for Issa [Sesay] to execute him under the directive of my leader Charles Taylor. Later he [Taylor] called me and said he had already sent for Issa to go and receive ammos in Buedu and for him to come and pass through me to Buedu and then I will follow him to get him, but Issa never returned. I spent almost two weeks in Kailahun and later he told me that, “The man has gone. He will no longer receive supplies from me.”” Mr. Marzah told the court in March 2008.
“This man is telling lies,” Mr. Sesay responded when confronted with Mr. Marzah’s statement.
Mr. Koumjian put to Mr. Sesay that since Mr. Taylor did not want the RUF to disarm, that was why he suggested that Sam Bockarie, the former RUF commander who had left Sierra Leone for Liberia be made to rejoin the RUF. When Mr. Sesay realised Mr. Taylor’s plot, he never returned to see the former Liberian president again, Mr. Koumjian said.
“If he [Bockarie] would have returned, you would have been killed…you told Charles Taylor you wanted to go and consult your colleagues and never returned to see Charles Taylor again,” Mr. Koumjian put to Mr. Sesay.
In response, Mr. Sesay said that “I told him that the problem was between Sam Bockarie and Mr. Sankoh, that i’ll have to go and consult my colleagues. Since then, he did not call me again and i did not return to see him.”
Mr. Koumjian also pointed to Mr. Sesay that the reason for his testimony on Mr. Taylor’s behalf is because he hopes that an acquitted Mr. Taylor will use political power to get him out of jail, having already started a 52 year jail term after being convicted for his role in the Sierra Leonean conflict. Mr. Sesay denied this suggestion, telling the court that his only hope for getting out of jail rests on God and the people of Sierra Leone.
“You have the hope that if Charles Taylor is released, he’ll help you get political release from prison. If Charles Taylor is released, he’ll help you get out of jail, correct?” Mr. Koumjian asked Mr. Sesay.
“No my Lord. Mr. Taylor is not a Sierra Leonean and so he has no influence in Sierra Leone. It is the people of Sierra Leone who will appeal to the Government of Sierra Leone for my release or the international community who know what i did for peace in Sierra Leone,” Mr. Sesay responded.
When told that he only “disarmed [the RUF] as a matter of survival,” Mr. Sesay said that “that is not true because the people who i worked with for peace in Sierra Leone did not say that.”
“They know that i did not surrender, they know that i worked with them willingly for peace in Sierra Leone.”
As Mr. Koumjian concluded his cross-examination, defense counsel for Mr. Taylor Silas Chikera immediatly commenced the re-examination of Mr. Sesay. In re-examination, Mr. Chikera sought to clarify certain issues that have been covered by prosecutors in Mr. Sesay’s cross-examination.
Mr. Sesa’s re-examination continues tomorrow.