A war crimes trial at Pirkanmaa District Court in Tampere, which began early this year, is being extended.
A Sierra Leonean man who has lived in Finland since 2008, is accused of murder, aggravated rape and aggravated war crimes during the 1999-2003 civil war in neighbouring Liberia. Gibril Massaquoi, 51, has denied all charges.
Due to new revelations about alleged atrocities, court officials will travel to West Africa for the second time to hear witnesses. Hearings there are scheduled to begin next week.
According to the criminal indictment, Massaquoi ordered the murder, torture and mutilation of civilians and participated in their cannibalisation.
Massaquoi was one of the leaders of the Sierra Leonean rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which took part in both the Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars.
Massaquoi later testified against fellow combatants at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. As a result, he was not charged with war crimes in Sierra Leone and made his way to Finland, where he worked as a cleaner and postman.
In March 2020, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested him in a Tampere Prisma parking lot after investigating his suspected links to war crimes in Liberia.
The new hearings will focus on Massaquoi’s whereabouts during the summer of 2003.
Finnish prosecutors had believed that his suspected crimes had ended by March 2003 when Massaquoi, who had agreed to testify against his former brothers-in-arms, moved to the Sierra Leone Special Court Shelter in Freetown.
“Now, in the course of the process, doubts have arisen as to whether this conclusion was correct after all. Several witnesses have reported that the suspect was still in the Waterside area (of the Liberian capital, Monrovia) in the summer of 2003, just before the end of the war. Based on that, we have extended the time period of possible crimes,” State Prosecutor Tom Laitinen told the news agency STT.
He added that the trial, which began in February, could be wrapped up before the end of this year.
Sources: Yle, STT, AFP, BBC, AfricaNews