Trial Day 3: The Government's Case Continues
Witness 2 (continued)
The government’s second witness continued testifying Wednesday morning. She explained that when the defendant Mohammed Jabbateh first came to her village with his soldiers and demanded that she have sex with him, she did not think she could refuse. She said that she believed she would be killed if she did not have sex with him the first night because he was a fighter and had a gun. From then on, she was forced to have sex with him two or three times each day. She explained that she could not say “no” to him because “if I say no he might harm me.”
She recounted that when she was taken to Teemoh Village by Jabbateh and his soldiers, she saw them gather all the villagers together as soon as they arrived. Jabbateh told the people to come outside their homes and bring their diamonds with them. He and his soldiers bound their hands and forced them to walk to Camp Israel. The witness testified that the group went back to Teemoh Village almost every day to take food, which they neither paid for nor asked permission to take. The villagers were forced to carry the food balanced on top of their heads for the return journey with their hands tied together in front of them. The witness explained that while it is common practice in Liberia to balance loads on one’s head to carry it from place to place, they always use their hands to hold and stabilize it. In this instance, Jabbateh forced the villagers to carry food without any support while their hands were tied in front of them.
Eventually the witness was able to escape when the soldiers captured an unknown woman who arrived in the area. The witness explained that Jabbateh sent his soldiers to bring the woman to him because they believed the stranger might be a spy. According to the witness, the new woman claimed that she was there to do business related to the diamonds so Jabbateh had his men follow her when she went to get the diamonds and capture her. The witness testified that the soldiers stripped the woman naked and beat her. While the men were busy beating the woman, the witness was able to slip away and escape. There had been no opportunity to escape before then because “all eyes were on me,” she testified.
The witness identified pictures of the house where she lived in Camp Israel when she first encountered Jabbateh and of Jabbateh among his soldiers.
On cross-examination, defense counsel asked the witness about the witness fee she would receive for testifying and about whether expenses associated with her travel to the U.S. were paid for by the government. The witness testified that she did not know who was paying for expenses and did not know about a witness fee.
She was also asked on cross-examination about her tribal affiliation, and she identified herself as a member of the Gio tribe. She stated that her aunt’s friend was in a relationship with one of Charles Taylor’s fighters and that the Gio tribe was considered an ally of Charles Taylor.
The witness testified that she had met with U.S. prosecutors and law enforcement agents twice in Liberia and again after arriving in the U.S. for this trial. She stated that she had been introduced to the prosecution team through an individual in Liberia her brother had told her was working for justice. She obtained the individual’s telephone number and called him in 2016. This ultimately led to a meeting with the U.S. government in Liberia, during which she was shown a picture and asked if she could identify the man (Jabbateh) who she was talking about. She responded affirmatively and was shown a picture of a group of men, including Jabbateh, who she picked out. She initially provided a description of Jabbateh when she first spoke to officials, describing him as “black, dark skinned, with dreadlocks.”
The witness was cross-examined about whether she ever reported that Jabbateh had raped her to anyone in the 23 years before the U.S. government talked with her. She testified that she told people but never “took it to the government” because “they wouldn’t do anything about it.” When asked whether she had seen Jabbateh’s naked body during their encounters, she testified that he always kept his shirt on when having sex because he told her it was his “voodoo” and he couldn’t take it off.
The witness stated that she had not seen Jungle Jabbah since the events in 1994.
Next, the government’s third witness was called to testify. She began by explaining that rebels came to the area where she lived when she was a little girl, and she and her family ran away, crossing a river and forest to get away. She first encountered Jabbateh when her village was again invaded in 1994, this time by ULIMO fighters. She testified that Jabbateh and his soldiers captured her and her family and forced them from their village to the town to Waybama. From there, the group was taken to Bopolu. They were forced to travel the distance on foot, and it took approximately five hours. The witness recounted that the group was forced to run the distance under threat from the soldiers. When they arrived in Bopolu, it was late in the evening, and the soldiers put the group into a jail cell for the night.
According to the witness, the next morning Jabbateh told the soldiers to release the group from their cell. The witness testified that Jabbateh ordered his soldiers to separate the men and to cut all of their hair off so that they could become soldiers also. They used glass bottles to shave the men’s heads. The witness testified that she never saw her brothers again after that.
Jabbateh then took the women in the group and “gave” them to the soldiers, informing his soldiers that they could “have them.” Jabbateh told the women that if they didn’t agree, they would be killed. She was “given” to one of Jabbateh’s adult fighters named Cobra Red. He was light skinned and short, with a thick build. The witness was 13 years old at the time. Cobra Red took her to a big house in the area and forced her to have sex with him. The witness recalled that there were other women in the house being raped also. She suffered injuries to her vagina after Cobra Red raped her the first day. Another woman in the house helped her by giving her cocoa leaves to apply to make her feel better. Despite her injuries, Cobra Red continued to rape her repeatedly for the next month and a half.
At some point during that first morning, some of Jabbateh’s soldiers brought a man to him and reported that the man was a spy, the witness recounted. She testified that Jabbateh ordered his soldiers to kill the man so that they could eat his heart. “They cooked it and cut it into pieces and shared it among the soldiers so they could eat it that day,” she said. She also recalled hearing Jabbateh tell his men that if anybody refused to eat the heart, they would die the same way the man was killed.
The witness testified that when she saw Jabbateh that morning, he was wearing camouflage, long sleeves, and wore his hair in dreadlocks. She described him as having dark skin and a skinny build.
The witness explained that Jabbateh had an office that he used as his headquarters nearby the jail. One day Jabbateh ordered the witness to be brought to his office so that she could pick lice out of his hair. The witness recalled that Jabbateh had dreadlocks at the time.
After being held for a month and a half, the witness managed to escape. The woman who had given her the cocoa leaves after her rape helped her run away. The woman told her that if she could manage to walk, she could follow a group of women who were also leaving the house.
The witness also identified a video clip and photographs of Bopolu for the jury. She explained where the jail had been and where the market was in the photos. She also identified Jabbateh in a photo.
On cross-examination, the witness testified that she had met with the prosecutors twice in Liberia, the first time in 2016, and had given them information about what had happened to her and the things she had seen. Defense counsel accused her of only telling prosecutors about Jabbateh eating the man’s heart during their second meeting, not the first, but the witness said she answered questions and provided information when asked.
Defense counsel asked the witness about her tribal affiliation, which she identified as Kpelle. In response to defense counsel’s questioning, she stated that she did not know whether the Kpelle tribe was an ally of the NPFL rebels.
The witness also testified on cross-examination that she did not know how much she would receive as a witness fee from the government for testifying and did not know how long she would have to stay in the U.S. She stated that she made approximately $80 USD per month from her job in Liberia as a security officer.
The witness testified that prosecutors contacted her through an individual in Liberia (the same individual who had introduced Witness 2 to prosecutors.) During one of their meetings, the government showed her photos and asked if she could identify anyone in the picture; she replied that she could.
Defense counsel accused the witness of giving conflicting statements during her meetings with the government and at trial regarding the type of clothing Jabbateh was wearing when they first met, but the witness said she could not recall the statements.
The witness was also asked on cross-examination whether she had ever reported her rapes to the Liberian government in the 23 years since the event. She replied that she had told people in her village but did not report it to the Liberian government. Upon further questioning from prosecutors about why she had not reported the rapes, the witness said that she explained what had happened to her when she was asked to do so.
The government’s fourth witness was called to testify on Wednesday afternoon. The witness described her close relationship with her cousin, who she referred to as her sister. She explained that her sister ran a nightclub in their town and also owned a food shop where soldiers frequently stopped to eat. The women lived near the shop and the witness often helped her sister with the business.
When asked by the prosecutor, the witness described some of the Generals she knew at the time, as well as their tribal affiliations and the rebel leaders they served with. She testified that General Jungle Jabbah was from the Mandingo tribe. She often saw Generals from the Krahn tribe eating at her sister’s shop, including a General named T. Kallah. T. Kallah was in a relationship with her sister, and they had children together, although T. Kallah was married to another woman. The witness stated that when the Generals came to eat, they never ate alongside the lower-level soldiers under their command. Their soldiers stood guard while the Generals ate and were only allowed to eat the leftovers once the Generals finished. The witness recalled that Jungle Jabbah sometimes ate at her sister’s shop. She described him as slim, with a dark complexion and short dreadlocks. She testified that she was not allowed to call him by the name “Jungle Jabbah” and instead referred to him as “Chief Jabbah.”
The witness testified about going with her sister to Monrovia and crossing over the Po River Bridge. To cross they had to pass the Zero Guard Post near the bridge, a checkpoint controlled by ULIMO rebel groups on the Bomi side of the bridge. One Friday morning in 1994, she and her sister went to have their hair braided and to shop for items for the nightclub. On the way, they stopped at the Zero Guard Post to speak with the witness’s friend. The witness saw fighters in the area, including General Pepper and Salt, who wore a headband with the words “No more Jesus, Only Allah.” The fighters had taken all the guns away from the other guards at the checkpoint. When the witness asked why they had taken the guns from some but not all of the guards, one soldier grabbed her by her clothes and shoved her into a metal container she described as being similar to a bank safe. The soldiers then beat on the outside of the metal container causing a noise so loud it damaged her hearing. When she was finally released, she caught a ride to Bomi in the back of a pickup truck. The witness testified that her hearing was damaged so severely that she couldn’t hear anything. When she arrived home, her sister was waiting there for her, but she did not want her sister to know that the soldiers had done something to her.
Two days later, on Sunday, the witness’s sister called and asked her to wash clothes and cook for her. The witness said that she refused. Her sister then asked if she was getting ready for church and the witness told her “no.” Instead, the witness went to visit a friend. While at her friend’s house, the witness recounted that she heard the sound of a “launch” overhead coming from the area where her house was, followed by a second “launch” about 15 minutes later. She went to see what was happening and when she arrived, she saw soldiers all over the area. She hid in a nightclub named “School" near her house and watched what was happening.
From behind a curtained window, she observed Jungle Jabbah and his soldiers dragging her sister out of their home. The witness stated that she could see her sister’s hand was bleeding heavily because she had been shot. The witness testified that her sister was naked from the waist up. She recounted that Jungle Jabbah sat her sister down on the ground and asked where he could find T. Kallah. Her sister asked Jungle Jabbah why he was asking her when he should be asking T. Kallah’s wife. Jungle Jabbah kicked the witness’s sister and knocked her over. The witness explained that she saw Jungle Jabbah begin to twirl his pistol around his fingers and ask again where he could find T. Kallah. Her sister replied that she did not know. The witness stated that Jungle Jabbah then put his pistol into her sister’s vagina and pulled the trigger. The witness stated that her sister was four months pregnant at the time. She watched as her sister jerked and twitched on the ground before she died. Jungle Jabbah then gave a warning that no one should move the body; it should be left to rot. He ordered some child soldiers under his command to stay and make sure no one touched the corpse.
The witness recalled that another Mandingo General from the neighborhood arrived in his white pick-up truck and asked, “who did this?” The child soldier guarding the body responded, “Chief Jabbah did this.” The witness explained that the General was furious her sister had been killed; everybody was friends with her and ate at her shop. According to the witness, the General ordered his soldiers to put the body in his pick-up truck and take it to the graveyard by the church for burial. The General also sent some soldiers to get clothes from her sister’s house to use as a grave marker. The witness testified that she stayed in hiding inside the School nightclub while this was happening. She recounted that once the truck drove away, she followed it to the gravesite and stayed out of sight until they were done with the burial. Afterwards, she took a different road to the market and slept there for the night.
The witness testified that the girl who had come to help her sister wash clothes was also killed. She said that she saw the girl’s body slumped forward on the steps to her sister’s house. The witness stated that she does not know who shot the girl because it happened before she arrived. When she saw the body, she turned and ran away.
The witness explained that she encountered a checkpoint on the road going towards the church. The checkpoint was patrolled by Mandingo soldiers, including Jabbateh and others. They arrested her and put her into Daki’s Store until Monday morning. While holding her captive, they ordered her to go and draw water for them. When she refused, they made her lie down on the ground and beat her. She still has scars on her back from the beating. When she woke up from the beating, she went to get the water. The witness recalled that on her way back from getting the water, she found a man’s body lying on the ground. She testified that she saw Jungle Jabbah and some other Generals sitting at the table, drinking tea and eating the man’s heart. She put the water down, and the men put her back into her cell.
The witness testified that she was taken out of the cell again on Tuesday night by some soldiers. The Generals were not around. Four soldiers took her to a nearby compound and raped her. She explained that she still has a scar on her leg from her attempts to resist. After they were finished, the soldiers put her back into her cell. Several days later, men from the Krahn tribe came and rescued her from the jail.
The witness identified photographs of the Po River Bridge and the Zero Guard Post for the jury. She also identified photos of her house, the School nightclub, her sister’s burial site and grave, and a photo documenting the scars on her back. When asked to identify Jungle Jabbah in court, the witness stood from the witness stand and pointed at Jabbateh.
On cross-examination, the witness confirmed that she met with the U.S. prosecutors and law enforcement agents multiple times in Liberia, but she could not recall the specific number of times or the dates when they met. Defense counsel pressed the witness about why she had such a detailed memory of other events but could not recall this information. Defense counsel asked if she had been introduced to prosecutors through the same individual who had introduced Witnesses 2 and 3 to prosecutors, but the witness stated that a different Liberian man had introduced them.
Defense counsel accused the witness of only telling the government about Jabbateh eating the man’s heart at their second meeting, not the first. Defense counsel asked the witness about some statements she allegedly made to prosecutors regarding the last time she saw Jungle Jabbah, but she testified that she could not recall what she told prosecutors in their meetings. Defense counsel asked if she recalled telling prosecutors that Jungle Jabbah shot her sister with an AK-47, not a pistol, and the witness replied that Jabbah handed the AK-47 to his bodyguard and took a pistol to shoot her sister. Defense counsel also asked about details she told prosecutors regarding her sister’s death and burial. The witness testified that she watched her sister’s burial from behind another tombstone in the graveyard that was approximately 20 feet away. When pressed by counsel, she denied telling prosecutors earlier that she had helped to bury her sister herself. She claimed that she was hiding during the burial because she “didn’t know their intentions.” Defense counsel also pressed the witness about details of her sister’s relationship with T. Kallah and T. Kallah’s rebel group affiliation and tribe. She testified that T. Kallah belonged to the Krahn tribe.
Finally, defense counsel asked the witness about whether ULIMO-J had women soldiers at the Military Women’s Building. The witness responded that she did not know anything about ULIMO-J. When counsel confronted her with her earlier testimony regarding details ULIMO-J’s leadership affiliations, the witness explained that she meant she did not know about ULIMO-J’s women fighters.
The government’s fourth witness finished testifying at the end of the day. The trial continues on Thursday morning when the government is expected to call its next witness.