By Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – A Sierra Leone man, Eric Koi Senessie, has been found guilty on eight out of nine contempt of court charges following a trial that began on June 11 at the Special Court in Freetown.
The charges arose from allegations that he tried to persuade prosecution witnesses to recant their testimony in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Four of the counts accused Mr. Senessie of offering bribes to witnesses and the other five counts alleged that he attempted to influence witnesses.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Senessie repeatedly harassed at least three of the prosecution’s witnesses at their homes and offered to pay them in exchange for recanting their testimony against Charles Taylor.
The prosecution called witnesses who had testified at Taylor’s trial and reported harassment by Mr. Senessie to testify against him at trial. Mr. Senessie testified on his own behalf and called five additional witnesses to testify in his favor.
After hearing testimony, Justice Teresa Doherty found that Mr. Senessie had “…knowingly and willfully interfered with the administration of justice…” and convicted him on all counts except for one count of attempting to influence a witness.
The maximum penalty for a contempt conviction is seven years imprisonment, a fine of twenty million leones which equates to approximately $4,600 in American currency, or both. The actual sentence will be determined after the prosecution and the defense submit recommendations on sentencing.
Mr. Senessie was once a member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group that was supported by Charles Taylor during civil war in Sierra Leone. Taylor aided the RUF by abetting in terrorism, murder, rape, conscription of child soldiers and pillage in exchange for diamonds.
Charles Taylor was convicted of eleven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity last month and given a sentence of fifty years in prison.
For further information, please see:
Sierra Express Media – Eric Koi Senessie Convicted of Contempt of Court for Witness Tampering – 23 June 2012
Jurist – Sierra Leone War Crimes Court Convicts Former RUF Member of Witness Tampering – 22 June 2012
Voice of America – In Taylor Trial, Tampering Conviction for Ex-Rebel – 22 June 2012
Modern Ghana – Contempt Trial of Eric Koi Senessie Opens at the Special Court for Sierra Leone – 8 June 2012