One of Charles Taylor's ex-bodyguards has testified at his former boss' trial in The Hague. VOA's Lauren Comiteau reports from Amsterdam he is the first person from the former Liberian president's inner circle to appear before the special court.
Wearing traditional African garments and swearing his oath on the Koran, Varmuyan Sherif did not look at Mr. Taylor as his day in court began.
The 39-year-old was once a rebel fighting against Taylor's troops in Liberia's civil war. But after Taylor became president in 1997, Sherif was brought into a so-called "government of inclusion," and he quickly rose in the ranks of the president's security services and became his trusted bodyguard and aid.
Sherif provided the clearest link yet between Taylor and the Sierra Leone rebels he is accused of supporting from his home base in Liberia. The rebels, like the Revolutionary United Front, were notorious for their brutal campaigns of murder, rape, and indiscriminate amputations.
The witness spoke about a 1998 mission Taylor sent him on to Sierra Leone, where he picked-up RUF leader Sam Bockarie. After successfully delivering Bockarie, Taylor rewarded the witness with U.S. dollars at his Monrovian mansion known as White Flower.
Sam Bockarie was also thankful and told Sherif that he was the first person who was able to arrange a personal meeting between himself and the president.
When the witness was asked in court if he had told Mr. Taylor about the murders he witnessed Mr. Bockarie commit, witness Sherif gave an emphatic no.
"No, no. I cannot involve myself in that," he said. "All my trips going in and coming out indicates to me that, I knew very well, that the mission Sam Bockarie was carrying on was being supported by Mr. Taylor. So I would not have decided to report Sam Bockarie to say, 'Oh, these are the things he has been doing'. Oh no. I did not at all involve myself in that. I only did what I was instructed to do."
The witness also testified that Charles Taylor wanted an open border in an area between Sierra Leone and Liberia so the Sierra Leone rebels would feel free to come and go, and so that former Liberian fighters could sell their weapons to them.
The witness testified he gave Bockarie a vehicle full of weapons including AK-47 assault rifles. He also testified that high-level Liberian officers were instructing Bockarie about possibly staging an attack into Guinea from Sierra Leone.
Sherif is the second witness to waive his right to protection and testify in open court. Former Liberian president Taylor has pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts against him.