Drama unfolded in the ongoing mercenary case at Criminal Court ‘D’ when one of 18 defendants accused of being mercenaries, unexpectedly turned state witness, failed to show up on Friday, April 25, to testify against his colleagues.
All 18 of the men on trial were alleged members of a defunct rebel faction, blamed for going on a violent, murderous rampage around the country, between 1990 and 2003.
They were also accused of launching cross-border raids into neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire during 2010 to 2011. Several human rights violations were attributed to them, including the killing of seven members of a United Nations peacekeeping mission (UNOCL) in the same neighboring country.
The human rights violations were linked to clashes between the Defense and Security Forces (FFS) militias and mercenaries of former Ivorien president Laurent Gbagbo, on one hand, and the Republican Forces of La Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) and traditional hunters loyal to President Alassane Ouattara, on the other.
They were arrested between 2010 and 2012, in Grand Gedeh County by a joint-security team. Grand Gedeh is a bordering county with La Côte d’Ivoire. One of the 18, Prince Barclay, was later exonerated and freed, reportedly after agreeing to turn state-witness.
In court on Friday, state-witness Barclay was expected to appear and testify against the other 17 defendants; but when the appointed time came, Barclay could not be found anywhere in the courtroom.
Barclay’s absence prompted a request to the court to suspend hearing on that day, (Friday) stating that prosecution’s witness had suffered a severe bout of diarrhea. They did not say which hospital had treated him, or show any medical reports related to Barclay’s sudden illness.
One of the lawyers for the defense prayed that the court denied the request, arguing that it was an attempt to delay the case, and prolong his clients’ detention.
Cllr. Dempster Brown argued that prosecution’s failure to produce its witness’ medical records, clearly demonstrated the prosecution’s un-readiness to continue the trial.
After arguments, however, Judge Emery Paye granted the prosecution’s request to suspend the hearing until Monday, April 28.