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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs