Former Liberian president Charles Taylor said on Monday he was sickened by allegations at his war crimes trial that he ate human flesh, calling testimony by a former aide the lies of an illiterate man.
“I felt like throwing up when I heard that nonsense, and I think even the prosecution were shocked at listening to that foolishness,” he told the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.
Taylor, beginning his third week on the stand, said the stories of cannibalism by a former officer in his militia were “statements of lies, statements of deceit and deception.”
He also denied trading arms for diamonds with Sierra Leone rebels, a central allegation of his indictment.
Taylor is accused of arming and supplying Sierra Leone militias whose signature crime during the 1991-2002 civil war was hacking off the limbs of civilians to terrorize them into submission. He has denied all 11 counts of murder, rape and recruiting child soldiers in the neighboring country.
Taylor was responding to testimony last year from Joseph Marzah, who said Taylor ordered his men to eat the flesh of his enemies, including African peacekeepers and UN soldiers. Marzah said that would “set an example for the people to be afraid.”
Marzah, also known as “Zigzag,” described himself as a former chief of operations for Taylor and commander of a death squad.
Using maps of the border region, Taylor also testified on Monday that he couldn’t have traded arms because neither of the two roads that led to the Sierra Leone border could support vehicles laden with weapons, as alleged by a prosecution witness.
“No road existed then and no road exists now,” he told the court. The only access was by rough roads surfaced with rocks and dirt.
Varmuyan Sherif, a former Taylor bodyguard. testified last year that he escorted pickup trucks to the border loaded with automatic rifle ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades. The court was shown a picture of Sherif with a truck allegedly photographed on the border.
“I say bluntly, it’s a lie,” Taylor said.
He also described as “ludicrous” Sherif’s allegation that he accepted diamonds from the Sierra Leone rebels, who sometimes sent them in mayonnaise jars.
“Liberia is a very rich country” with abundant diamonds, gold deposits and uranium, Taylor said, adding that he had been negotiating with the US company Halliburton to develop offshore oil reserves.
“It is beyond my imagination that anyone would believe that the president of Liberia would go into Sierra Leone because he wants to terrorize the people and take their wealth,” he said.