Taylor lawyers attack credibility of witness

A defence lawyer for war-crimes suspect and former Liberian president Charles Taylor on Monday attempted to destroy the credibility of a key prosecution witness at his war-crimes trial in The Hague, accusing him of “always hating” the accused.

Completing three days of cross-questioning of Varmuyan Sherif, a former member of Taylor’s travelling security squad, lawyer Courtenay Griffiths said the witness had a “personal history” of plotting against Taylor.

Taylor—the first former African head of state to face a war-crimes trial—is accused of arming, training and controlling the Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds.

The conflict left 120 000 dead and thousands more injured.

“Because of your personal history ... always deep in your heart you have hated Charles Taylor,” Griffiths told the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

“I suggest that, even when you were working in the government of president Taylor, you were plotting against him,” Griffiths said, before enumerating a lengthy list of suggestions aimed at showing that the witness has a history of mental problems.

“You inflated your role in order to lend false credibility to your evidence,” concluded Griffiths.

“It’s not true,” Sherif replied repeatedly.

During the cross-examination, Griffiths pointed out that before working for Taylor, Sherif was formerly a commander of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia, fighting against Taylor’s National Patriotic Front for Liberia.

Taylor is the first former African head of state to appear before an international tribunal. He faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including terrorising the civilian population, murder, rape and the use of child soldiers.
The former president has pleaded not guilty.

According to the prosecution, Taylor controlled RUF rebel forces in neighbouring Sierra Leone, who went on a blood diamond-funded rampage of killing, mutilation and rape during the 1991 to 2001 civil war.—AFP

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