News / Africa

Charles Taylor's Attorneys Question Credibility of Prosecution Witnesses

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, February 8, 2011 (file photo)
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, February 8, 2011 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio

Defense attorneys for former Liberian president Charles Taylor say testimony from prosecution witnesses is tainted by cash payments from a special fund provided by the United States.  Mr. Taylor's war crimes trial is drawing to a close after more than three years.

Defense attorney Terry Munyard says money "lavished" on prosecution witnesses has polluted "the pure waters of justice."  He told the court that those payments went far beyond the simple reimbursement of expenses and were used in such a way "as to taint the testimony of some of the prosecution witnesses."

Mr. Taylor's lead attorney, Courtenay Griffiths, says what he calls this sometimes extravagant spending is further evidence of a politically-motivated prosecution.

"No similar fund was ever provided or requested by the defense," said Griffiths.  "And despite repeated requests by a number of bodies, the prosecution have never come clean as to how these moneys were acquired and indeed how they were spent."

Griffiths says the prosecution fund to pay witnesses was provided by the United States government as part of what he calls a campaign to ensure that Mr. Taylor is imprisoned.

Prosecutors were not permitted to respond to those allegations Thursday as the defense concluded its closing argument.  Prosecutors present their rebuttal Friday.

Mr. Taylor has pled not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged support of Sierra Leonean rebels from the Revolutionary United Front.

Speaking to the court at the start of closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Nicholas Kumjian says Mr. Taylor is responsible for those rebels and the atrocities they committed.

"The defense is still denying that the RUFF was on a campaign of terror despite all the evidence of hands being chopped off, heads being put on sticks, one child whose hands and feet were chopped off and thrown in the sewer, women being raped and gang raped, women having to hear their children killed and having to carry the heads of the children in bags," said Kumjian.

The defense says there were clearly many human-rights violations during Sierra Leone's civil war, but Mr. Taylor is not responsible.  During the trial, defense attorneys argued that neither Mr. Taylor nor rebel leader Foday Sankoh would have engaged in a campaign of terror because they were both trained in Libya under Moammar Gadhafi. 

Kumjian says the importance of that defense argument is best illustrated by their submission of a 27-page speech by Colonel Gadhafi.

"Even though the prosecution was willing to stipulate that it come into evidence, it was so important to the defense that they chose to read it word-for-word into the record," added Kumjian.  "Well, perhaps there is one thing we can agree on with the defense.  We agree that Charles Taylor is as likely to use terror against civilians as Moammar Gadhafi.  That we believe is established."

In concluding his defense, Griffiths returns to what he calls the selective prosecution of these proceedings as Mr. Taylor is the first African leader to be tried in person.

"His trial has been trumpeted by the prosecution as demonstrating an end to impunity," said Griffiths.  "We agree.  Indeed, his trial is of importance to Africa and this evolving concept of international justice to which we are, as a defense, unswervingly committed.  Yet we note that currently everyone being tried or awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court are from guess where?  Africa.  We are disturbed by this."

A judgment from the U.N. backed Special Court for Sierra Leone is expected later this year.

Defense attorneys for former Liberian president Charles Taylor say testimony from prosecution witnesses is tainted by cash payments from a special fund provided by the United States. VOA West Africa Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Taylor's war crimes trial is drawing to a close after more than three years.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More