The former Liberian president Moses Blah is expected to testify on Wednesday 14 at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in the trial of the man he succeeded, Charles Taylor. The two have had a long-standing relationship dating back to the founding of their National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
Blah’s appearance may be delayed if defence lawyers do not complete the cross-examination of a prosecution insider witness, Karmoh Kanneh, a former RUF commander.
Many believe the former Liberian president’s appearance will be quite revealing as he’s expected to give evidence on a wide range of events relating to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against his former boss.
The office of the Prosecutor says Mr Blah will speak about circumstances surrounding the killings of RUF battlefield commander, Sam Bockarie and AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma in Liberia allegedly by personnel subordinate to Mr Taylor.
One of Mr Taylor’s lawyers, Terry Munyard says Taylor and his Defence team have nothing to fear as long as Mr. Blah will say the truth.
He told these reporters, “We’re perfectly happy to have former President Blah’s evidence, and we look forward to hearing it. And our position is that Mr. Blah is simply going to tell the truth and there’s nothing to fear.”
However he goes on to say that although they are not frightened by Blah‘s appearance, he sees one problem. “The problem that we face – both Mr. Taylor and his lawyers – is that there’s been a huge, sustained propaganda campaign against him over many years now. And one of the real difficulties is that lots of people can tell you Mr. Taylor is a bad man and he’s done awful things. But almost none of them can tell you what it is that he’s done. And that’s simply because his name has been besmirched over the years in a very unspecified way.”
Speaking to these reporters earlier, the prosecutor of the court, Steven Rapp said Mr Blah did not wish to have his identity protected hence would appear under his own name.
The prosecutor said the former Liberian leader had failed to appear earlier because of ill health. “I don’t want to discuss people’s health if they haven’t already, but he [Mr Blah] indicated that he has high blood pressure and that he needed to make sure that that problem is taken care of before he could travel, and that he would have a medical release from his doctor” he said.
He assured that all the issues, including alleged threat made against Mr Blah, had now been resolved.
Moses Blah served as Charles Taylor’s vice president and was Taylor’s immediate successor as Liberian president when Taylor left Liberia for exile in Nigeria in August 2003.
Blah will be led in evidence by Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court, Stephen Rapp. It will be the first time that Rapp has led a witness in the Taylor trial.
Courtesy: BBC World Service Trust and Search for Common Ground
By Alphonsus Zeon and Adolphus Williams in The Hague