Liberia: Alieu Kosiah Laments Frustration over Trial, Imprisonment; Insists on His Innocence On Day 4 of War Crimes Trial In Switzerland
“I’m not trying to be arrogant; I’m just suffering, I’ve been wounded. I’m speaking from that point of view that I did not capture Lofa.. . . It is difficult for me to understand what is happening to me. The case as I said, it is right in front of people. I believe that the prosecutor who spent a lot of time in this case, they know I was not involved in the capture of Foya, so why am I being kept in jail.” – Alieu Kosiah
Bellinzona, Switzerland – Presenting himself as a wounded man, Alieu Kosiah vented his frustration Tuesday with the Swiss Justice system, he says has wrongly imprisoned him and put him on trial for war crimes he did not commit.
“I’m not trying to be arrogant; I’m just suffering, I’ve been wounded. I’m speaking from that point of view that I was not involved in the capture Lofa,” said Mr. Kosiah, as he continued to make his case against war crimes before the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland.
Foya, Lofa County is a focal point of the charges against Kosiah.
It is in Foya the alleged cannibalistic killing of Saah Ndominin took place.
Relatives of the deceased recently interviewed by FrontPage Africa detailed how a ULIMO commander aliased “Ugly Boy” killed her husband and ate his corpse. Rebels of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy reportedly seized Ndominin, tied him up by passing a wire through a hole they drilled through the veins at the back of his thighs, took him at the center of Foya City and killed him.
“They cut here and put it in the pan,” she says, holding the flesh on her arms. “They cut here and put it in the pan,” she says squeezing the flesh on her legs. “Ugly Boy opened his chest and took out his heart, then they cooked it and ate it,” Mary Ndominin, the deceased’s widow, now in her 50s told FrontPageAfrica recently.
It is the setting serving on which several ULIMO rebels were recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia to face a war crimes court.
Ten years after the TRC recommendation however, those recommendations have been shelved by Liberian authorities. Nevertheless, Kosiah and a number of former ULIMO commanders in the United States and Europe are being investigated and tried in connection with their roles in the Liberian Civil War (1989–2003).
Besides Kosiah on trial in Switzerland, Kunti K. was recently arrested in France. Kosiah was indicted last month after Swiss-based Civitas Maxima filed a complaint for seven Liberians who alerted Swiss authorities of his alleged crimes, according to Trial International. Kunti K. was indicted September last year following a complaint by the Swiss-based group for Liberian victims.
Mohammed Jabbateh, alias “Jungle Jabbah” is currently serving a 30-year sentence in the United States after a Philadelphia court last year convicted him for committing immigration offenses by lying on his role in the Liberian Civil War. Civitas Maxima also helped prosecute Jabbateh in collaboration with Monrovia-based Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP).
Kosiah, Kunti K, Jabbah – Intertwined by Crisis
All three former ULIMO figures appear to be correlated with the atrocities committed in Foya during the civil war. Testifying for the fourth day Tuesday, Mr. Kosiah lamented: “It’s difficult for me to understand what is happening to me. The case as I said, it is right in front of people. I believe that the prosecutor who spent a lot of time in this case, they know I was not involved in the capture of Foyah, so why am I being kept in jail.”
Mr. Kosiah explained that the court currently have in its possession, the testimony of ULIMO figures Abu Keita, Kwame Fofana and others, including newspaper reports stating that Stephen Dolleh captured Zorzor. “So, why am I being detained?”
While acknowledging that the war was brutal, Mr. Kosiah claimed that most people died from hunger and sickness. Mr. Kosiah also calimed Claims NPFL committed genocide, specifically targeting Mandingoes in the town of Bakidu, Lofa County. He also claimed that more than 600 people were killed during such time by NPFL rebels.
“I had no men under my command in 1991, Kosiah explained before pausing on the question about the total number of men recruited by ULIMO in 1992.”
Mr. Kosiah said he was the deputy to Omaru Kamara when ULIMO captured Todee and that he and Kamara commanded and controlled about 100 men.
For the duration of that year, Mr. Kosiah said, he was a “floating officer”; meaning he never had soldiers with him, except his bodyguard, a man named Tweah.
In 1995, he testified that he was in Voinjama and that he had about 150 men but claims that it was his first assignment in Lofa and he had gone there with his deputy, a fellow warlord named, PJY.
According to Mr. Kosiah, he was area commander and controlled a battalion of about 800 men. When ULIMO had plans to attack Gbarnga, he told the court, they would recruit men from other bases or areas that they had captured and that the number would increase by 400 or more. He later said that he ended his ULIMO operations in 1995.
Connection to Kunti
Regarding his mention of Kunti K during an earlier investigation, Mr. Kosiah said the reason he referenced Kunti was because he believed Kunti was present with the ULIMO fighters when Lofa was capture. He claimed that Kunti had confirm he was there when Lofa was captured.
Mr. Kosiah also testified that he spent two and a half months in Zorzor before going to Voinjama. “Since we got someone for the first time who participated in capture of Zorzor and Foyah, where was Alieu Kosiah?,” Mr. Kosiah asked.
This is why, Mr. Kosiah said he cannot understand why why he is being accused of a crime he did not commit. “It’s very dangerous to arrest people than to look for the truth. At least, they(Swiss authorities) can independently verify before making arrest. The more you keep the person in prison, the more you put pressure on yourself to look for proof.”
Asked about his expectations about the outcome of the trial he averred that his life has been ruined forever.
“Because, even I’m free, my name on the internet will be forever. If anybody now goes on the internet, the first thing they will see is that I am a war criminal. If I am to survive this, it is the fate I have to accept. That’s why I have instructed my brother to change my son’s name so they don’t have to suffer the same way that I am suffering.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Kosiah said he is a firm believer that justice will be serve in his favor. “I’m a believer. I believe that no matter what happens, the truth will prevail. If I happen to get out of this, the first thing I have to ask the judge for at least one month with my mother.”
Asked about his professional future, Mr. Kosiah said he has no idea what will become of him after the trial. “ have had discussion with a friend, I told him I don’t know. . . I won’t live in Lausanne again. I don’t have the energy to tell anyone that I was innocent or found guilty.”
Asked about his expectations about a potential Judgement, Mr. Kosiah said: “I just want the truth to prevail. I don’t want favoritism based on the facts.”
Mr. Kosiah, facing intense cross-examination expressed satisfaction with the prosecutor in the trial. “I have told the prosecutor that I believe he’s an honest person, he has a good heart. I believe still now, but I’m not sure the system will allow him to be who he is. have been destroyed forever. I will never be the same again – even if I’m freed.”
Feud With Joe Tate
Under cross examination, Mr. Kosiah was also asked to elaborate on an earlier testimony regarding his alleged feud with Joe Tate, the late former Police Director during the Charles Taylor government.
Mr. Tate was killed in 1999 when an eight-seater Cessna aircraft crashed near the Roberts International Airport, some 40 km east of Monrovia. He and a group had been returning from Maryland County in the south-east of the country after investigating reports of ritualistic killings.
Asked What did Mr. Tate hold against him, Mr. Kosiah said: “If you check his background, Joe Tate was a cousin of Mr. Taylor. So, the conflict with him is normal because those are the people responsible for killing our people”.
“There is a little bit of issue. What will happen most often is that certain things he wanted me to succumb to, but I refused. He could not fire me because different factions appointed me during the interim government setup. So, that was the conflict between he and I. If you can remember how he died. He was told that the helicopter could not fly because of bad weather. He put the pilot at gun point and that’s how he died.”
Mr. Kosiah recalled another incident when the late Tate had given his men an order to go and sell a motorbike belonging to the Liberia National Police. “I went and imprison those responsible and most of the press at the time ran with the story. As a result, we manage to take the bikes back to the police station which created a problem between myself and Mr. Tate.
Mr. Kosiah was also queried about an alleged breach of prison rules regarding phone calls.
He was reminded of an incident in the prison when he attempted to speak about the case with an unidentified male while on a phone call with his mother in Liberia, but the discussion was reportedly stopped by the prison inspector as stipulated by the instructions received.
Asked who was this person he tried to discuss the case with and what did he tell the person, Mr. Kosiah said since 2014 he has never had a call intercepted.
Mr. Kosiah explained: “My mother tried to give the phone to my sister. I did not ask my mother to give the phone to my sister. Every communication I had was done in English.”
He furthered: “On that specific day, I was talking to Bangalie my brother about his wife. I’m not ok with him leaving his wife. I was talking about family issue. I refused and I disagreed with the officer. I’ve told my brother to return home and continue returning to America and leave his wife back home. I told him I was uncomfortable with that. If they had recorded that conversation that’s exactly that what they heard, it had nothing to do with the case. The judge says this and this. I’ve been a policeman and know exactly what it means but if they have that they can bring it.”
Red vs. White: ULIMO vs. NPFL Colors
Mr. Kosiah also came under fire over what victims’ lawyers believe was his stretch of the truth regarding the ULIMO colors. Mr. Kosiah had earlier told the court that ULIMO color was white, but when shown a photo with ULIMO-K leader Alhaji Kromah in which a fighter of the group wore a red beret, Mr. Kosiah insisted that ULIMO never used red.
“ULIMO color is white, NPFL was red. This is not only my opinion. ULIMO color is white, NPFL is red. Red Beret was used by AFL. The SATU used red beret. But I can guarantee you, the red was NPFL. White was ULIMO and I’m not alone. I have said that.”
Mr. Kosiah testified that he could not give specific dates when he arrived in Lofa. But repeatedly insisted that he was never involved in the capture of Zorzor.
“I did not capture Foya. I’m not sure when you asked the question whether you said approximately. Most of the information, not all came from the proceeding. The capture of Zorzor and Foya, I did not know. When I refer to the capture of Foya, I’m refereeing to the newspaper.”
Mr. Kosiah also lamented that life in prison has not been good for him. “I’ve been in prison for six years and a month. It’s been tough. When you are in prison for reasons its different, but if you know in your heart that you did nothing wrong, then mentally it is difficult. But I try to manage it.”
Throwing pointed jabs at the Swiss justice system, Mr. Kosiah lamented: “My understanding of the western system is that you’re innocent until proven guilty but when you spent six years in prison it’s hard to believe what the westerners say about the legal system being innocent until proven guilty. Six years is a very long time. I have good relationship with everyone. And our understanding is your behavior is like your shadow. Everywhere you go, your behavior is what drives you in life”.