Defence wraps up testimony in Charles Taylor trial

9th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A rebel fighter in Sierra Leone's brutal civil war concluded his evidence in Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor's war crimes trial on Tuesday, wrapping up the testimony for the defence.

Sam Flomo Kolleh, 38, was the last of 21 witnesses, including Taylor himself, to testify for the defence in The Hague since the trial started in earnest in January 2008.

Kolleh, who said he was captured and forced to fight for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), told judges that prosecution agents had tried to threaten and bribe him to testify against the warlord.

One of them had offered him 90,000 dollars (about 65,000 euros) and told him: "We want you to tell us you took those diamonds to Taylor," the witness said on his first day of testimony last Monday.

Kolleh admitted he had been a "diamond courier" for the RUF, but denied he ever gave any gems to Taylor.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, who cross-examined Kolleh for several days, accused him of lying to protect Taylor.

"It was the RUF that cut the heads off victims and put them on sticks, that took young women as bush wives and that burn people alive ...? It was a human being, Charles Taylor, that made all of that possible?," he asked Kolleh, who replied: "No".

Taylor, 62, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone which claimed some 120,000 lives.

He stands accused of having fuelled war in Sierra Leone by arming the RUF in exchange for so-called "blood diamonds", in a trial that saw testimony from supermodel Naomi Campbell.

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.

Taylor insists that the case against him is based on "lies".

The prosecution closed its case in January last year, having called 91 witnesses. The defence will formally close its case on Friday.

The court has set a date of February 8, 2011 for the prosecution's closing arguments, followed by those of the defence the next day and rebuttals on February 11.

© 2010 AFP

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