Bodyguard testifies against Taylor at war crimes trial

A bodyguard of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor has given dramatic evidence against him, revealing the existence of a secret radio room that connected his mansion with the machete-wielding rebels on the front line in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Mr Taylor, the first former African head of state to face an international court, is on trial in The Hague for orchestrating a campaign of murder and mutilation during the decade-long war in Sierra Leone so he could plunder its diamond wealth.

His defence team does not contest that atrocities occurred but says that Mr Taylor, who stood down as Liberia's president in 2003 following intense international pressure, had nothing to do with it.

Varmuyan Sherif, part of Mr Taylor's inner circle, testified that his boss was in direct contact with Sam Bockarie – one of Sierra Leone's most notorious rebels, dubbed Mosquito for his ability to attack while people were off their guard – and had supplied him with arms, troops, cash and a satellite phone.

Observers in court yesterday described the flash of recognition that swept across Mr Taylor's face as his former security agent entered the courtroom, wearing a traditional brown tunic and avoiding eye contact with the man he used to protect.

"This was the first witness who's given us a direct link between the Sierra Leone rebels and Charles Taylor," said Elise Keppler, who is monitoring the trial for Human Rights Watch. "And the linkage issue is the crucial determining factor in establishing whether he is innocent or guilty."

Mr Sherif, who said he was responsible for the presidential motorcade and security on some of Mr Taylor's foreign forays, waived his right to appear as a protected witness, which would have prevented his name from being disclosed.

The former bodyguard told the court how he had been sent to Sierra Leone by Mr Taylor in late 1998 to persuade Mr Bockarie, one of the leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), to pay a visit to the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

The rebel leader became suspicious and took the bodyguard to a radio room near his house where he then proceeded to make contact with a secret communications centre on the fifth floor of Mr Taylor's presidential mansion and check out the story.

Mr Sherif also recalled Mr Bockarie's eventual visit to Monrovia. Shortly after the first face-to-face meeting with Liberia's leader, Mr Sherif saw the rebel chief carrying a wad of US dollars and a phone.

"He showed me the money and the satellite phone and he told me he was now a happy man," the witness told the court.

On another occasion the rebel leader arrived with diamonds, smuggled inside a mayonnaise jar, he said.

The court had previously heard from an expert in blood diamonds Ian Smillie, who said diamonds were the primary source of RUF funding, and that the diamond fields in Sierra Leone earned the rebel group up to $125m a year.

Harrowing accounts of rebel atrocities committed in the eastern diamond district of Kono have also been told to the court. Pastor Alex Tamba Teh described how child soldiers chopped off the hand, arm and feet of one screaming boy before tossing him into a toilet pit. They also carved RUF's initials on to the bodies of villagers they abducted to swell their ranks. Yesterday's witness is one of 60 so-called "insiders" the prosecution is expected to call as it seeks to prove Mr Taylor's complicity in Sierra Leone's civil war that raged from 1991 until 2002.

The trial resumed this week after a six-month recess. A judgment is not expected until the end of next year.

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments