Witness has informed the Finnish Appeals Court in Monrovia that a Sierra Leonean man accused of aggravated war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murders and rapes, was not in Liberia during the year prosecutors said he committed those crimes.

Named by both prosecution and defence lawyers, “Defense 9,” also a Sierra Leonean claimed Massaquoi, a former commander for Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was in Sierra Leone in 2001.

He further told the Court on Monday that he was brought to Liberia by Massaquoi between 2000-2001; to be a caretaker for a guest house; that Charles Taylor, the then Liberian President had given to RUF soldiers, including Sam Bockarie, Issa Sesay and Kenneth McCauley, who had come to Liberia on a “diplomatic mission.”

The witness testified that Charles Taylor hosted them because he was supporting the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, in April 2012, the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted and sentenced Taylor to 50 years in prison for supporting the war in Sierra Leone.

However, the year 2001 is one of the years prosecutors have alleged that Massaquoi was in Liberia; and carried out his crimes.
Also, 2002 and 2003 are the other year’s prosecutors have alleged.

Although the Pirkanma District Court ruled in April 2022 that prosecutors did not prove Massaquoi’s charges beyond “all reasonable doubt,” they are still making the argument on appeal—bringing witnesses they believe will help them prove that the Court wrongly ruled against them by acquitting Massaquoi.

As they did in the District Court, Massaquoi’s lawyers are arguing on appeal that he was in Sierra Leone at the time of the alleged crimes, providing information to the Special Court.

Furthermore, Defence 9 seemed to have done just what they had called him for, linking Massaquoi to those crimes; although he said he was never on the front.

He did say that it was Massaquoi, Bockarie, Sesay, McCauley and one Abdul Razak, who frequently travelled to Lofa to fight rebels from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels. The witness stated that the rebels were between the Liberian and Guinean borders.

However, Defense 9 said, in 2001, Taylor informed them that the international community had discovered he was hosting them; so he asked them to leave Liberia.

The witness also said although he made several personal mission trips to Liberia for the Special Court afterwards, he never saw Massaquoi in Liberia.

The coverage of the appeal of Massaquoi’s acquittal is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.