By Alpha Sesay
Sam Flomo Kolleh, a Liberian national and former member of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, concluded his evidence today in The Hague as the last live witness in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
The conclusion of Mr. Kolleh’s evidence paves the way for defense lawyers to officially close Mr. Taylor’s defense on Friday, November 12, 2010.
Mr. Kolleh’s evidence, which commenced last week Monday, focused on rebutting prosecution evidence that Mr. Taylor was responsible for providing support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone during that country’s 11 year civil conflict. Mr. Kolleh also alleged that he had been intimated and bribed by prosecutors for him to tell lies against Mr. Taylor.
Under cross-examination, prosecutors have tried to establish that Mr. Kolleh lied in the statements he made to prosecutors before he became a defense witness and that allegations that he was coerced to tell lies against Mr. Taylor are false. Mr. Kolleh denied the prosecution claims, telling the court that when he met with prosecutors, he gave false information about his name and participation in the war because he was afraid that he would be prosecuted.
As prosecution counsel Nicholas Koumjian concluded the witness’s cross-examination today, he emphasized that Mr. Taylor was responsible for the war that took place in Sierra Leone, an assertion that the witness denied.
“The war in Sierra Leone was promoted by the man who set up Camp Naama…you know who that man was and it was Charles Taylor, don’t you?” Mr. Koumjian asked the witness.
“No sir,” the witness responded.
In reference to a statement earlier on made by the witness that “the war in Sierra Leone was not made by human beings, it was made by God,” Mr. Koumjian put to the witness that “It was a human being – Charles Taylor, that made all that possible,” to which the witness responded, “No sir.”
Mr. Koumjian also pressed the witness about the statements he made to prosecutors, saying that the witness had lied in order to protect Mr. Taylor. In his statement to prosecutors, the witness said that his name was Sam Mustapha Koroma and that he was not captured by Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebels in Liberia but rather by RUF rebels in Sierra Leone under the command of a man named Tunkara. In his present testimony, he has said that his real name is “Sam Flomo Kolleh” and that he was captured by NPFL rebels in Liberia and trained at Camp Naama before the invasion of Sierra Leone.
“I told you earlier on that I was scared. That’s why I changed my name. I’ve told you this over three different times,” Mr. Kolleh said when put to him that he had lied about his name to Prosecutors.
“You lied in all of your interviews with the prosecution by saying, not the truth that you were captured by the NPFL in Liberia, but that you were captured by Tunkara in Sierra Leone?” Mr. Koumjian asked witness again.
In his response, the witness said, “I told you I lied because of fear.”
When put to him that he lied in order to protect Mr. Taylor, the witness said, “No, that was not the reason.”
Mr. Koumjian also pointed out that in his first meeting with defense lawyers for Mr. Taylor, the witness did not tell them that he had been threatened and bribed by prosecutors to lie against Mr. Taylor.
“That’s something you have made up since May 2010 as the case has become more desperate for the defence,” Mr. Koumjian said.
“No.” the witness responded.
As he was reexamined by Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Terry Munyard, the witness denied any relationship with Mr. Taylor as alleged in a report of the non-governmental organization Global Witness.
Mr. Munyard read that in the Global Witness report of 2002 to 2003, it is stated, “A Liberian by the name of Sam Kolleh, a close associate to Charles Taylor has changed his name to Sam Koroma to appear Sierra Leonean.”
When asked by Mr. Munyard whether he is a “close associate to Charles Taylor,” the witness said, “No sir,” adding that he has “never met Mr. Taylor in person before.”
The witness reiterated that he only changed his name because of fear and on the question of why he specifically chose that name “Sam Mustapha Koroma,” he said, “It was the name of my step-father…a Sierra Leonean.”
As the witness made his exit from the court room, both prosecution and defense lawyers filed several documents to be admitted into evidence.
The trial is adjourned until Friday, November 12, for the formal closure of the defense case.
Mr. Kolleh is the 21st witness to have testified for Mr. Taylor, after prosecutors had presented more than 90 witness to testify against the former Liberian president. The testimonies of prosecution witnesses dealt with the crimes that were committed in Sierra Leone by RUF rebels and Mr. Taylor’s alleged support to the RUF rebels and his alleged involvement in planning and implementing a campaign of terror in Sierra Leone. This, according to prosecutors forms part of a joint criminal enterprise that was formed by Mr. Taylor and rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor’s 21 witnesses have made attempts to rebut the evidence of prosecution witnesses and establish that his involvement in the conflict in Sierra Leone was only for peaceful purposes in that West African country.