Charles Taylor’s 20th defense witness, a former radio operator first in the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group and then in the Special Security Service (SSS) unit of Mr. Taylor’s government, today disputed the evidence of several Revolutionary United Front (RUF) radio operators, who in 2008 testified before the Special Court for Sierra Leone about radio communications that took place between the RUF and Mr. Taylor’s government in Liberia.
According to the witness, who is testifying under protective measures and is therefore only identified by pseudonym DCT-008, RUF radio operators lied when they alleged in their testimonies that RUF commanders sent regular radio messages to Mr. Taylor about the RUF’s activities in Sierra Leone and that Mr. Taylor and his SSS Director Benjamin Yeaten sent regular instructions to the RUF through the radio operator called Sun Light, who operated the radio communication set that was installed at Mr. Yeaten’s residence called Base One.
In July 2008, a former RUF radio operator, TFI-567, told the court that in December 1998, when RUF rebels dislodged Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeepers and captured the diamond rich town of Kono, radio communications took place between the RUF radio operators based at RUF headquarters in the Sierra Leonean town of Buedu and Liberian authorities through the radio operator Sun Light, who was in charge of the Base One radio set in Liberia.
When DCT-008 was asked about this today, he told the court, “It didn’t happen so. I have my doubts because Sun Light never visited Sierra Leone to know what was happening there. Sun Light did not give any report on RUF operations…Sun Light did not have any contacts withthe RUF organization. He was only communicating with Sam Bockarie [RUF commander] on behalf of Benjamin Yeaten.”
TFI-567 also told the court that when he travelled to Liberia, together with another RUF radio operator, Memunatu Deen, who was already coordinating RUF activities in Monrovia, SSS Director Mr. Yeaten took them to see Mr. Taylor at the Executive Mansion around 10:00PM on a particular night.
When defense lawyers asked DCT-008 whether he was aware of this, the witness said, “It is not to my knowledge and moreover, Memunatu Deen’s operation in Liberia was very covert, it was secret and the Government of Liberia did not know that Memunatu Deen was in Monrovia and carrying out such operations, and it is not to my knowledge that Memunatu Deen and Benjamin Yeaten went to see President Taylor.”
He also said that he was not aware of “Charles Taylor receiving visitors at the Executive Mansion late in the night.”
This prompted a question from Justice Richard Lussick of the Trial Chamber. Justice Lussick asked, “Yesterday, you said that in all your time at the Executive Mansion, you never even got to see the president. So how would you know if he received visitors?”
In response, the witness said, “This is why I said that it is not to my knowledge that the president received visitors late at night.”
“Memunadu Deen never told me anything concerning her visit to the president of Liberia,” he added, noting also that neither Mr. Yeaten, nor any other person informed him of such visit.
The witness also refuted the evidence of another RUF radio operator, TFI-585, who testified in 2008 that when rebel forces invaded Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown in 1999, Mr. Yeaten spoke to RUF commander Mr. Bockarie. During this conversation, the SSS Director expressed gratification at news of the invasion of Freetown, telling Mr. Bockarie that he’ll visit RUF headquarters in Buedu in two days. Mr. Yeaten also told Mr. Bockarie to turn on his satellite phone as Mr. Taylor wanted to speak with him, the witness told the court in 2008.
Disputing this claim, DCT-008 today told the court, “I am not aware of that. For the time that I was at 50’s [Yeaten] house, 50 never spoke to Sam Bockarie on the radio, infact, 50 never spoke to anybody on the radio, whether for family or government issues.”
He also said that he was not aware of the SSS Director making any trip to Buedu.
DCT-008 also responded to the testimony given by the overall RUF signal commander, Mohamed Beretay Kabbah, who in 2008 testified that whenever an ECOMOG fighter jet left from the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Monrovia with a target to bomb RUF positions in Sierra Leone, Sun Light would inform RUF radio operators in Buedu that the “Iron Bird” was on the way, thus helping RUF rebels to plan their escape. Sun Light also used the code “448” when informing RUF radio operators about the ECOMOG fighter jet, Mr. Kabbah said in 2008. DCT-008 described this account as false.
“First of all, I do not know the code 448 to be reference to an ECOMOG jet. And when Base One was communicating with Buedu, there was no communication regarding ECOMOG jet,” the witness told the court.
“We had our own code that referenced an enemy plane and it was 15-2. During the NPFL days, when ECOMOG was carrying out air raids against the NPFL, the NPFL radio communication used “Iron Bird” but this was not expedient as it could reveal what we were talking about…and when we went into government, Iron Bird was cancelled and we used the code 15-2.”
The witness added, “Base One was situated in Kongor town in Monrovia. The RIA where ECOMOG was is far away from Base One…Base One had no knowledge of ECOMOG jets. Yes, we could hear a plane when moving but we had no knowledge of where it was going, so the issue of communication regarding the movement of ECOMOG jets never occurred.
When asked by Judge Lussick whether it was “possible for somebody at RIA to get intouch with Base One either by radio or telephone,” the witness said, “Yes.”
“We had a radio at RIA. It was possible,” he said.
The witness, however, said that there was no time that the radio operator at RIA informed Base One that an ECOMOG jet had take off for Sierra Leone.
The witness disputed claims that the RUF used to communicate with Mr. Taylor through Sun Light. He said that Sun Light never had access to the president of Liberia and so there is no way such communications could have taken place through Sun Light.
DCT-008’s testimony continues on Thursday.