Former rebel chief denies getting arms from Charles Taylor

A former rebel chief in Sierra Leone told a special court on Monday that he never received weapons from the former president of neighbouring Liberia, Charles Taylor, who is on trial for war crimes.

“No,” answered Issa Hassan Sesay to a question from Taylor’s lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, about whether the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) had ever accepted weapons or ammunition from the Liberian former leader and warlord.

The 40-year-old Sesay, himself a convicted war criminal, was called as a defence witness for Taylor, who has been accused of covertly supplying weapons to the RUF in exchange for rough diamonds during Sierra Leone’s brutal 1991 to 2001 civil war.

Taylor is on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was to moved to The Hague from Freetown for security reasons.

Asked by the lawyer if he had ever given diamonds to Taylor, Sesay replied: “No, I don’t remember giving diamonds to Mister Charles Taylor.”

Sesay was convicted by the same court — which was set up to try suspected war criminals from Sierra Leone’s conflict, war crimes and crimes against humanity — and sentenced to 52 years in prison in October 2009.

He also claimed the first time he ever met Taylor was in May 2000.

Taylor (62) has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from Sierra Leone’s civil war, including charges of murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers, enslavement and pillaging.

The RUF is blamed for the mutilation of thousands of civilians who had their hands and arms severed in one of the most brutal wars in modern history, which claimed about 120 000 lives.

The court last week ordered supermodel Naomi Campbell to testify on July 29 about a “blood diamond” she was allegedly given by Taylor in 1997. — AFP

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