Taylor trial hears of arms-for-diamonds exchanges

A former comrade-in-arms of Charles Taylor on Wednesday told judges at the former Liberian president’s war-crimes trial that Taylor ordered him to take arms to Sierra Leone rebels and exchange them for diamonds.

Joseph Marzah, also know by his nom de guerre Zigzag, told the court that in the early 1990s he went to Sierra Leone about 40 times with transports carrying AK-47 assault rifles and rockets.

“Sometimes, we got ammunition from White Flower [Taylor’s presidential residence] or a Russian plane ... By Charles Taylor’s directive, I sometimes would take some straight to Sierra Leone,” Marzah (49) said.

According to the prosecution of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Taylor controlled rebel Revolutionary United Front forces who went on a rampage of killing, mutilation and rape funded by blood diamonds during the 1991 to 2001 civil war.

About 120 000 people were killed in the conflict, with rebels mutilating thousands more, cutting off arms, legs, ears or noses.

At the time of the charges in the indictment, Marzah was a fighter in Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia.

Asked by prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian if he ever saw diamonds, Marzah was firm.

“Many times. I escorted diamonds to Charles Taylor.
He himself can tell you that if he tells the truth,” he said.

He told the court he had personally escorted about 10 to 15 trips where diamonds were taken to Taylor.

He recalled one diamond in particular, which was about 5cm in diameter.

“At that time, we called [it] ‘father’. When [we] took it along, Charles Taylor was impressed,” Marzah said.

Taylor, the first former African head of state to appear before an international tribunal, faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.—AFP

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