Dutch court to re-examine Liberia arms deal case


The Dutch Supreme Court said it had quashed a lower court’s decision to acquit a Dutch businessman accused of smuggling arms to former Liberian President Charles Taylor and ordered a new appeal hearing.

Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced in 2006 to eight years in jail by a Dutch court for smuggling arms to Taylor’s government between 2001 and 2003 in contravention of UN sanctions, but acquitted of war crimes for lack of evidence.

However, an appeals court in The Hague acquitted Kouwenhoven of arms dealing in 2008, saying it was not convinced of the trustworthiness of the testimony of some witnesses and that there was not enough other evidence to convict him.

The Supreme Court said yesterday that the appeals court had given insufficient reasons to refuse a request by the public prosecutor to hear two anonymous witnesses during the appeal.

It granted a new appeal filed by the public prosecutor based mainly on these grounds, a spokesman for the Supreme Court said.
“The court of appeal of Den Bosch will re-examine the case and that court has to hear those two witnesses,” said Savornin Lohman, spokesman for the Supreme Court.

Known as “Big Gus” in Liberia, the former executive of the Oriental Timber Corp
and the Royal Timber Co. was accused of selling arms in exchange for timber concessions in Liberia, dubbed the “blood timber” trade by campaigners.

The charges stem from Liberia’s civil war that started in 1989, spilled across borders, killed a quarter of a million people and spawned a generation of child soldiers.

Former Liberian President Taylor has been on trial in The Hague since June 2007 at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and is the first African ruler to stand trial for war crimes.

Pic: Former Liberian President- Charles Taylor

Source: www.af.reuters.com