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Sierra Leone war crimes court convicts former RUF member of witness tampering

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] on Thursday convicted [press release, PDF] former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] member Eric Senessie on eight of nine counts for witness tampering. Four counts alleged that he had bribed witnesses who testified against the former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to recant their testimonies. The remaining five counts involved Senessie's attempt to influence a witness. Justice Teresa Doherty held that the accused had "knowingly and willfully interfered with the administration of justice" convicting him on all four charges of bribing witnesses and four of five charges influencing a witness. She also rejected the defense argument that the five witnesses were engaged in a conspiracy against the accused. Senessie was indicted [JURIST report] for witness tampering in June 2011, a month after he was charged [Reuters report].

Earlier this month, lawyers for Taylor announced that they will appeal [JURIST report] the SCSL's conviction and 50-year sentence for war crimes committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive] against their client. Taylor was sentenced [JURIST report] in May after Trial Chamber II convicted [judgment, PDF] him of planning as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebel forces in exchange for diamonds during the civil war, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces, enslavement and pillage. Two weeks before the conviction, Taylor had asked the court to be sentenced with an eye toward "reconciliation, not retribution," a response to the prosecution's request seeking a sentence of 80 years upon his conviction [JURIST reports] in April.

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