Defense lawyers for Charles Taylor today concluded the direct examination of the former Liberian president’s 20th defense witness. The witness’s direct examination was concluded mostly in private session as defense lawyers focused on discussing certain issues and submission of exhibits that, if discussed in public, would disclose the identity of the witness and the identities of other protected prosecution witnesses.
The witness, DCT-008, a former radio operator in Mr. Taylor’s Special Security Services (SSS) unit has testified mainly about radio communications that took place between RUF commanders in Sierra Leone and members of Mr. Taylor’s security forces, including former SSS Director Benjamin Yeaten.
As the direct examination of the witness was concluded this morning, prosecutors made an application that the judges issue an order for defense lawyers to disclose all written statements that have been made by the witness to defense investigators. Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis told the judges that the witness’s testimony has gone contrary to most of the things stated in his written statement. The statements disclosed so far have been grossly inadequate, Ms. Hollis told the court.
Ms. Hollis said to the judges, “In general, what we have is a witness whose testimony is totally different from what he had told the defense.”
“We ask that you order the defense to disclose the full statements immediately,” the Chief Prosecutor told the judges.
Defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, Morris Anyah, objected to the prosecution application, telling the judges that the prosecution has “no automatic rights to the defense witness statements” and that because the prosecution had not established the irreparable damage that the non-disclosure of the witness’s statements would cause, there is no need for the order to be granted.
“The prosecution is not entitled to disclosure, they have not met the necessary legal steps and the witness’s statements should not be disclosed.”
After retiring for about 30 minutes to deliberate on the issue, the judges ruled against the prosecution application, stating that prosecutors had not given sufficient justification for the disclosure of all the statements made by the witness.
“We agree with the defense that the prosecution has not satisfied the requirement that the witness’s statements be disclosed,” presiding judge of the Trial Chamber Justice Julia Sebutinde said.
“We dismiss the [prosecution] application,” she concluded.
After the delivery of the judges’ ruling on the issue, prosecutors made another application that they be given until tomorrow (Friday) morning to prepare for the commencement of the cross-examination of the witness.
Defense lawyers stated that they have no objection to the prosecution application, and the application was granted.
The court took an early adjournment and the cross-examination of DCT-008 commences on Friday.