Sierra Leone rebel charged with contempt in Taylor trial


Judges at the Sierra Leone war crimes court have charged a former rebel fighter with contempt of court for trying to bribe prosecution witnesses in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, officials said.

Prosecutors in February requested a probe into allegations that a defence investigator and other people tried to bribe prosecution witnesses into recanting their evidence.

In a ruling made public on Wednesday, judges charged alleged former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel Eric Senessie with contempt, but dismissed allegations that a defence investigator had also tried to influence witnesse, reports Reuters.
“There are sufficient grounds to proceed against Eric Senessie for contempt of court, but … there are insufficient grounds to proceed against any other person,” the court said.

The ruling was made on Tuesday, court documents showed.

Senessie was charged with nine counts of contempt, including knowingly and willfully interfering with the court by allegedly offering to bribe or influence five witnesses, including two protected witnesses to persuade them to recant testimony.

Prosecutors had alleged that Senessie told the witnesses he had been sent by Taylor’s defence team to persuade them to change their testimonies against the former Liberian leader.

Taylor, has denied all 11 charges of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers during wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in which more than 250,000 people were killed.

He is accused of directing RUF rebels in a campaign of terror to plunder Sierra Leone’s diamond mines for profit.

The hearings in the first war crimes trial of an African ruler started in June 2007 and ended in March. Judges are expected to hand down their judgment in coming months.