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Lebanese Businessman Imported Arms For President Taylor: Witness

TRC Rural Public Hearings Day Two

February 13, 2008

HARPER (TRC)?A former employee of the Port of Harper in Maryland County says Lebanese Businessman Abbas Fawaz used the port to import arms and ammunition for the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and later the Taylor government.

Maximillian N. Jah, Sr., now an amputee and former employee of the port's warehouse department, was testifying Wednesday at the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia Public Hearings at the Harper City Hall, Maryland County.

Jah said Fawaz imported weapons regularly through the Port of Harper, which he disclosed was operated by the expatriate businessman.

"Abbas Fawaz was the President of Maryland County and was responsible for the port here. We were at the port one day when a vessel came with the arms and the former superintendent Dan Morias and General Charles Sumo drove us the workers when the ship docked. Fawaz was also with them," Jah told the audience in the jammed packed city hall.

The witness said he was present at the port during four shipments of weapons before they were usually driven out for the cargo to be offloaded.

Jah said he was later present at a warehouse owned by Fawaz in Harper City, where the weapons were discharged and stored. "After they drove us, I came to Fawaz's store where the arms were stored. And I saw it," he claimed.

The witness also claimed that NPFL Special Forces Commanders led by former President Moses Blah ordered him shot before they broke into containers at the port and looted vehicles belonging to SIDA, a rubber company then operating in Maryland County.

Jah said Generals Blah, John Gbaintor and Charles Sumo ordered him from his hospital bed after he was shot to open containers at the port where Land Rover jeeps belonging to the rubber company were containerized.

Jah said, "John Gbainto and Moses Blah went to me at the hospital and said someone told them that I knew about the containers that were in the port. They ordered me out of the hospital and took me to the port and I showed them the container. They forced me to show them where the Land Rovers were. After I showed them the containers and they took off the jeeps then John Gbainto kicked me in my stomach before I was taken back to the hospital."

Jah said the containers were burst open by fighters under the command of the three men and the vehicles looted. He said the vehicles were used by Blah and his men during their control of Maryland County. Blah, the witness said, was then commander of NPFL forces in Harper.

"A rubber company here had brought a consignment of vehicles. All Land Rover jeeps. They did not know how to get it out. So someone told them that I knew something about the jeeps, and that is why they went for me at the hospital. They were all white jeeps, and the ones they were using here," the witness testified.

Fred Bahway, the first witness to testify Wednesday said fighters of the NPFL drank the blood of wounded civilians and ate their hearts after they ambushed the vehicle they were riding in.

Bahway, who lost his left ear in the incident, said following the ambush, the fighters drained the blood of their victims and extracted their hearts.

"After we were attacked and they were still in ambush, I fell under a stick and a car came from behind. I could hear Charlie Jayswen, Turtle Bone and JJ. They were the people that led the group to Maryland. They came and drank the blood of some of the passengers, and they were also eating their hearts. If I did not camouflage myself, they would have done the same to me," Bahway explained.

He said one of the fighters later shot his left ear with a single barrel gun. "Later the LPC came and each time they see my ear cut, they say I am a rebel and they wanted to kill me."

"I have being living a miserable life. Only God helped me to reach this day, for I am still in pain. I am begging the Liberian government and the TRC to send me to hospital. I don't want money," the distressed witness pleaded.

Another witness, Jacob Wah said fighters of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) summarily executed his mother and brother in his presence in Pleebo, Maryland County.

Wah also claimed that fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) killed his daughter in his presence before chopping him with a bayonet.

The first female witness to testify Wednesday broke down in tears when she recounted stories of atrocities committed by the LPC.

"During the second LPC war, we were sleeping and the people came and we began to run. We saw the people and started to run but did not know where we were going. My mother asked my two brothers to come back and take some of our things. I heard firing and I said, ?Oh! People in town, you look for canoes for us to cross.' When the fighters saw the canoe, they started shooting. The bullet touched me and one of the boys dropped. I said, ?You have to be strong before they kill all of us,' and the other boy dropped too. They were still shooting, and I jumped in the water and swam across," Josephine Nimely recounted her experience in tears.

She said the fighters pursued them in another canoe but were unable to capture them. The weeping witness said her mother collapsed and died as she narrated her account of the incident to her.

Nathaniel Seton, Wednesday's last primary witness, said fighters of the LPC killed his two daughters when they attacked Maryland County.

When the fighters attacked the county in 1995, Seton explained they met his two daughters at the waterside, shot the younger one first and chopped the elderly one into pieces when she came to the aid of her sister.

The TRC is an independent body set up to investigate the root causes of the Liberian crisis, document human rights violations, review the history if Liberia, and put all human rights abuses that occurred during the period from 1979 to 2003 on record. 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 move next week to the south eastern counties of Grand Kru, River Gee, Sinoe and Grand Gedeh.

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