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Pirkanmaa court to return to Liberia in war crimes case

A Finnish court is heading back to the west African country following the emergence of new witnesses and evidence.

Sotarikoksista syytetyn Gibril Massaquoin oikeudenkäynti
Gibril Massaquoi has denied all charges and has said he expects to win the case. The picture is from a court session earlier this year in February. Image: Matias Väänänen / Yle

Pirkanmaa District Court on Monday said it would hand down a judgement early next year in the case of a man accused of committing serious war crimes during Liberia's second civil war. The court was initially scheduled to rule on the case this autumn.

The defence and prosecution have named more than 20 additional witnesses in Liberia. The parties have also presented further documentary evidence. The court plans to hear from these witnesses in Liberia later this fall.

The defendant, Tampere resident Gibril Massaquoi, faces several serious charges including dozens of murders, eight rapes as well as aggravated war crimes and aggravated human rights violations dating back to the early 2000s.

The criminal indictment said Massaquoi ordered the murder, torture and mutilation of civilians and participated in their cannibalisation.

Massaquoi held a high-ranking position in Sierra Leone's rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which took part in both the Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars.

Life in Tampere

When Sierra Leone's civil war ended, Massaquoi served as a witness against fellow fighters in a UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. For this reason he avoided war crimes charges in Sierra Leone and made his way to Finland, where he worked as a cleaner and postman. Last year, after years of investigating Massaquoi's possible links to war crimes in Liberia, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested him in a Prisma parking lot.

This past winter and spring Pirkanmaa District Court spent weeks in Sierra Leone and Liberia hearing more than 70 witnesses identified by the prosecution and defence.

The court also heard from foreign and domestic experts and witnesses in Finland.

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