As prosecutors commenced the cross-examination of Charles Taylor’s 20th defense witness in The Hague today, defense lawyers for the former Liberian president indicated that the witness could be the final defense witness to give oral testimony in court.
The decision that DCT-008 could be the final witness to testify for Mr. Taylor was communicated in an email sent yesterday to all parties, including the judges, by lead defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, Courtenay Griffiths. The email was made public today in court by the presiding judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Julia Sebutinde.
Justice Sebutinde asked the defense to indicate whether this email also meant that the defense was disposing of a pending motion that is before the judges relating to allegations of payments made by prosecutors in an amount of over 30,000 USD to a potential defense witness, DCT-097. In the motion, defense lawyers allege, with documentary evidence, that prosecutors had paid huge sums of money to DCT-097, a former member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group who, according to many witnesses, was the main person who transported blood diamonds from Sierra Leone to Mr. Taylor in Liberia. Prosecutors had contacted the former RUF fighter to testify against Mr. Taylor and, in the process, had allegedly sent him huge sums of money for his cooperation. The motion alleges prosecutors only stopped the payments to the RUF fighter when he could not tell them what they wanted to hear.
Now a potential defense witness who was scheduled to testify for Mr. Taylor, the RUF fighter identified by Pseudonym DCT-097, has given defense lawyers moneygram receipts of payments he received from prosecutors. Defense lawyers have, through the motion, asked the judges to order prosecutors to make a full disclosure of all payments to the witness, as well as disclosure of all exculpatory evidence that would point at Mr. Taylor’s innocence based on statements that were made by the witness. Defense lawyers did not say why they have decided against having DCT-097 to testify as a defense witness.
After conferring with other members of the defense team, defense counsel Morris Anyah told the judges that the defense still wants a decision on the motion because defense lawyers intend to establish that prosecutors have been paying witnesses to testify against Mr. Taylor.
“Yes, we would like to have a decision on that motion and related pleadings,” Mr. Anyah told the court.
Mr. Anyah informed that court that at the end of DCT-008’s evidence, Mr. Griffiths would address the court on the next steps of the defense case.
He concluded, “Except as otherwise instructed, this will be the last live witness for the defense.”
As the cross-examination of DCT-008 commenced, Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis raised several questions relating to the role of the Special Security Services (SSS) in Liberia, the various places where communication radio sets were installed in the country, and communications that took place between the witness and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone. Ms. Hollis also questioned the witness about the personal relationship he had with Mr. Taylor.
The Chief Prosecutor noted that he had a close relationship with Mr. Taylor, and that on occasions, they both discussed security issues. The witness said that was never the case.
“I was never close to Charles Taylor…I never sat with Mr. Taylor for any discussions on security matters…I told you…that the only time I spoke with him was in 2003 when some of our men went missing in the Lofa forest,” the witness said.
“I met with the president because I put in place a mechanism how to locate the men and Benjamin Yeaten wanted me to train the commanders on how to use the Thuraya satellite phone. That was the opportunity I met the president,” he added.
An area of disagreement during the cross-examination today was the location of radio communication sets inside the Executive Mansion of Liberia when Mr. Taylor was the president of the country. In the witness’s testimony, he has stated that the SSS radio communications department was based on the 4th floor of the Executive Mansion from where SSS radio operator Sun Light worked. This account, prosecutors say, goes contrary to what Mr. Taylor and Yanks Smythe, another defense witness who also worked as radio operator, told the court in their testimonies. These two men stated that the radio communication sets were installed on the 5th floor of the Executive Mansion. As Ms. Hollis suggested that Sun Light used communication equipment on the 5th floor of the Executive Mansion to communicate with the RUF in Sierra Leone, DCT-008 insisted that Sun Light did not work on the 5th floor but on the 4th floor of the Executive Mansion.
“It is also correct that in 1997, Sun Light worked on the 5th floor and communicated with the RUF component of the junta in Sierra Leone, is that not correct?” Ms. Hollis asked the witness.
“It is not true that Sun Light worked on the 5th floor of the Executive Mansion,” the witness responded.
Many prosecution witnesses mentioned Sun Light’s name as a the main radio operator who communicated with RUF rebels on behalf of Mr. Taylor and his security officials in Liberia. This witness has dismissed those testimonies as lies, telling the court that Sun Light only communicated with the RUF on behalf of SSS Director Mr. Yeaten and that such contacts were not to the knowledge of Mr. Taylor.
DCT-008’s cross-examination continues on Monday.