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Abbas Fawaz Supported Ivorian Rebels, Rural Journalist Tells TRC Commissioners

February 29, 2008

FISH TOWN (TRC)?Abbas Fawaz, Lebanese businessman and owner of the Maryland Wood Processing Industries (MWPI) provided logistical and financial support to Ivorian dissidents to invade C?te d'Ivoire, a rural journalist accused of committing atrocities told commissioners of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Wednesday.

Zico Dalieh, programs manager of Gee Radio in Fish Town, River Gee County said several truck loads of arms and ammunitions concealed under bags of rice, were regularly transported by Mr. Fawaz from the Port of Harper in Maryland County across the Ivorian frontier to supply the rebels.

The company, Dalieh said, paid monthly salaries to the rebels and repaired vehicles used for their operation in C?te d'Ivoire.

"One day, arms and ammunitions concealed under bags of rice arrived in the company's trucks from Harper before Generals Benjamin Yeaten, Paul Vaye, Chuckie Taylor and others arrived to transport them across the Ivorian border for operation," recounted Mr. Dalieh, who headed the company's operation in River Gee at the time.

He revealed that during the company's operation in the area, former president Charles Taylor established military barracks at Jidepo Jaklaken for the government militia fighters, adding that Fawaz was given the responsibility to support them financially and logistically.

Dalieh said one day a convoy of vehicles arrived at the border with C?te d'Ivoire carrying General Benjamin Yeaten, Chuckie Taylor, William Sumo and some French-speaking soldiers. He said the group later crossed into C?te d'Ivoire, where they were engaged in military operations against Ivorian government forces.

The rural journalist, who appeared before the commission to respond to accusations by previous witnesses that he committed atrocities, said Lebanese managers of the company were seen armed with AK-47 rifles when fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) launched their rebellion against the Taylor government in 2003.

He said that on one occasion, one of the managers, Joseph Noredin, escorted a truck loaded with food, arms and ammunition for use by the fighters in C?te d'Ivoire.

Dalieh's testimony was similar to claims by Solo Chea, the County's revenue judge that arms and ammunitions bound for rebels in C?te d'Ivoire were shipped into Liberia through the Port of Harper and transported by road to River Gee County by Fawaz, who was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MWPI.

The TRC is an independent body set up to investigate the root causes of the Liberian crisis, document human rights violations and other abuses that occurred from 1979 to 2003. The TRC mandate is to also identify victims and perpetrators and make recommendations on amnesty, prosecution and reparation.

The public hearings, under the theme: "Confronting Our Difficult Past for a Better Future will Monday convene in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County for a week before moving to Greenville, Sinoe County."

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