X-9,” as the Finnish Appeals Court co-named him, sounded regretful, when he reflected on what he claimed was the ruining of his life by the Sierra Leonean man facing prosecution for mass murder, rape, torture, and other horrific crimes in Liberia during the country’s second civil war between 1997-2003.
X-9 alleged that ex-Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander, Gibril Massaquoi, abducted him from his school in Sierra Leone and forced him to carry arms and ammunition for the RUF, covering long distances until they reached Liberia.
“If it was not because of what Gibril did to me, by this time, my life would have been better,” said X-9. “Maybe by now, I would have a master’s degree and doing something good for me and my children. But see my life now.”
Forced labour or forced transport has come up too often on appeal as it, as it was in the Pirkanmaa Court District of Tampere, which acquitted Mr Massaquoi because of a “reasonable doubt” nearly a year ago. Prosecutors argue that the lower court erred by its decision of that and other crimes.
They are also insisting Massaquoi, who was an informant for the UN-backed Special broke the court’s “rules” by coming to Liberia to fight in the war. They have claimed he did so between 2002 and 2003. Although Mr Massaquoi’s lawyers have rejected this allegation, many prosecution witnesses have corroborated the testimonies of each other on the issue.
X-9 alleged Mr Massaquoi and other RUF soldiers were in Liberia in 2002. “We came to Liberia and we went to Kamatahun [in Lofa County].” But he said he and his friends, who were abducted by Mr Massaquoi and the RUF “were not fighters.”
The man told the Court that from Lofa, they moved to Monrovia, where they saw Benjamin Yeaten [a top fighter for Charles Taylor, the Liberian President at the time], Sam Bockarie and other top Taylor’s and RUF fighters.
On cross-examination, defence lawyers presented photos that he (X-9) told Finnish police were Mr Massaquoi’s when they visited Liberia in 2019. Although he had told the police the photos were found in Kalahun, he was inconsistent on Thursday, saying the photos were found in the house Mr Massaquoi, Sam Bockarie and other fighters lived in.
The hearings continue on Friday.
The coverage of the appeal of Massaquoi’s acquittal is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.
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