The prosecution witness and former member of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group, Joseph Zig Zag Marzah, did not have physical proximity to the former Liberian president, a former radio operator attached to Mr. Taylor’s Special Security Service (SSS) unit told the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague today.
In 2008, Mr. Marzah testified as a prosecution witness in The Hague, and he told the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges that Mr. Taylor personally gave him orders to carry out executions of individuals in Liberia and that as members of the same secret society, himself and Mr. Taylor feasted on human beings, who had been executed on Mr. Taylor’s orders. Mr. Marzah also told the court that on Mr. Taylor’s instructions, he transported arms and ammunition to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for Sierra Leone’s blood diamonds.
During Mr. Taylor’s almost seven months of testimony in his own defense, he dismissed Mr. Marzah’s evidence as lies, telling the judges that illiteracy could be responsible for Mr. Marzah concocting such stories against him.
Today, defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, Morris Anyah, asked DCT-008, Mr. Taylor’s 20th defense witness, whether it was possible for Mr. Marzah and Mr. Taylor to share a meal together.
“Did the president of Liberia have one on one interaction, such as meals, with someone like Zig Zag Marzah?” Mr. Anyah asked the witness.
“No,” the witness responded.
“Were you there?” Presiding judge of the Trial Chamber Justice Julia Sebutinde asked the witness.
In response, the witness explained, “Your honor, I said no because looking at the personnel in this situation, because even the special assistant to Benjamin Yeaten, Samson Wai, did not have physical proximity to the president.”
“Marzah was just like a servant to Benjamin Yeaten,” the witness added.
When asked whether radio operators had access to former president Taylor, the witness said, “During the time that I was assigned to the Executive Mansion, I never had the privilege to see the president because he was very far from us. We’ll sometimes see his convoy from our office but we never went very close to him.”
DCT-008 also spent a considerable amount of time today discussing the radio communications that took place between the radio communication set that was installed at Mr. Yeaten’s residence in Liberia called Base One and the radio set that was used by RUF commander Sam Bockarie, located at the RUF headquarters in the Sierra Leonean town of Buedu.
In 2008, a prosecution witness testified that when Mr. Yeaten and Mr. Bockarie wanted to talk with each other, one radio operator from either Sierra Leone or Liberia would call the radio set on the other side and say, “The principal on this side wants to talk to the principal on that side.”
DCT-008 dismissed this testimony as a lie, telling the court that while radio communications took place between the two stations, no titles were used during the communication.
“No one was referred to as principal during the communication between Buedu and Base One,” he said.
The witness also added that contrary to prosecution evidence, the communications that took place between Liberia and Sierra Leone only started in the late 1990s, and evidence that such contact existed in the mid 1990s is false.
When DCT-008 explained, “To my knowledge, in  94, 95 up to 97, there was no communication between the Government of Liberia or the NPFL at the time and the RUF,” a judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Richard Lussick, asked the witness, “How do you know?”
In response, the witness said, “I was told by previous operators that in 1991-92, there was communication between the NPFL and the RUF, but after that, there was no link between the NPFL and the RUF.”
When the Judge asked him to tell the court the names of the said previous operators who had told him so, the witness said, “Sorry I can’t remember their names…but I can remember this information.”
The witness also refuted evidence that when the RUF undertook operations in Sierra Leone, RUF commander Mr. Bockarie had radio contacts with SSS Director Mr. Yeaten. A prosecution witness told the court in 2008 that during conversations with Mr. Yeaten, he heard Mr. Bockarie respond with words like “yes sir,” inferring that Mr. Bockarie was taking orders for military operations from Mr. Yeaten.
In response to a question of whether Mr. Yeaten was “directing RUF ground operations by giving Sam Bockarie orders on the frontline,” DCT-008 said, “It is not to my knowledge that he [Yeaten] instructed Sam Bockarie on military operations.”
The witness was also confronted with prosecution evidence that when rebel forces invaded Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown in January 1999, Mr. Yeaten personally spoke with Mr. Bockarie on the radio during which conversation the SSS Director congratulated the RUF commander for his rebel group’s achievement. The witness dismissed this a as lie, saying that he never saw Mr. Yeaten personally speak on the radio.
“First of all, please be informed that there was no occasion that Benjamin Yeaten spoke on the radio with anybody. Sam Bockarie and Benjamin Yeaten never spoke to each other on the radio as far as I’m concerned,” the witness said.
While admitting that Mr. Yeaten had a strong relationship with the RUF, the witness insisted that the Liberian government had no knowledge of such a relationship.
“The Executive Mansion was completely ignorant of the relationship between Benjamin Yeaten and the RUF,” the witness said.
DCT-008’s testimony continues on Wednesday.