Minister ordered killing frenzy, court told

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The Independent Online

The former minister Sam Hinga Norman presided over a "killing frenzy against innocent civilians", whose heads were cut off, spiked on sticks and paraded in dances around villages as a warning, Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal heard yesterday.

The former minister Sam Hinga Norman presided over a "killing frenzy against innocent civilians", whose heads were cut off, spiked on sticks and paraded in dances around villages as a warning, Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal heard yesterday.

Opening the case against the man who served as deputy defence minister in the final years of thecivil war, the prosecution said Mr Norman had become as ruthless as the rebels he was supposed to stop.

"The just cause of a civil defence force in Sierra Leone, set up to defend a nation, became perverted and was twisted beyond measure," the chief prosecutor, David Crane said.

The 10-year civil war, declared over at the beginning of 2002, pitted Mr Norman's Civil Defence Force (CDF) against the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). It killed an estimated 75,000 people and left thousands more missing legs, arms, lips, ears and eyes.

Some in Sierra Leone see Mr Norman as a hero who helped put down the rebels and restore democracy. But yesterday the prosecution promised a stream of witnesses to prove that Mr Norman and his right-hand men - Moinina Fofana and Allieu "King" Kondewa - were guilty of eight counts of crimes against humanity.

Boy soldiers made to believe they were immune to bullets. Women were raped and forced into sexual slavery. A man attacked by militiamen trying to save ammunition, who was rolled down a hill after having his neck cut but lived to tell the tale. All would take the stand.

But before any witnesses could be called, Mr Norman sacked his lawyer, forcing the court to adjourn until Tuesday.

Earlier, in the still unfinished courthouse, protected by UN troops, the three judges from Canada, Cameroon and Sierra Leone heard how still-warm corpses had been mutilated under directions from the CDF leadership. "Intestines were removed from the stomach, then roasted and eaten," assistant prosecutor Joseph Kamara said. Prosecutors say the three defendants were responsible for the criminal acts committed by tribal Kamajor warriors lower down the chain.

But Mr Norman's daughter Juliet disagreed. "He was indicted for political reasons. The government of Sierra Leone betrayed him," she said.

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