The suspect covered his face with a file folder during a detention hearing held at the District Court of Pirkanmaa in Tampere, Finland, on 12 March 2020. (Mika Kanerva – Lehtikuva)


A SIERRA LEONE MAN living in Tampere, Finland, is facing heavy charges for crimes against civilians in a trial that began at the District Court of Pirkanmaa on Monday.

Helsingin Sanomat on Monday wrote that the 51-year-old defendant stands accused of several counts of murder, aggravated rape, aggravated war crimes and serious human rights violations in exceptional circumstances.

The offences are believed to have taken place in Monrovia, Liberia, during Second Liberian Civil War between January 1999 and March 2003.

The prosecutor argued that the offences were committed against civilians, including women and children, and disarmed soldiers. The offences, they described, violated both the generally accepted laws and rules of war and the humanity at large.

The District Court of Pirkanmaa began the proceedings with a preparatory hearing and will re-convene for the main hearings on Wednesday. The court will deliberate on the case for a total of two weeks before the judges, prosecutors and defence counsels travel to Liberia to hear witnesses and resume the hearings in Finland in May.

The ruling is to be delivered in September.

The charges outlines offences that would be completely exceptional for any district court in Finland. The first section of the document initiating the proceedings alleges that the defendant ordered soldiers under his command to kill dozens of civilians in a village called Kamatahu Hassala. The civilians were allegedly locked in houses that were lit on fire.

The document also details the use of child soldiers, mutilating bodies and even cannibalism, according to YLE.

The prosecution is demanding that the man be sentenced to life in prison.

The defendant has rejected the charges. Kaarle Gummerrus, the counsel of the defendant, on Monday predicted that the trial will focus noticeably on how the witness testimonies have been obtained and what factors may have influenced their content.

Thomas Elfgren, the detective chief inspector in charge of the pre-trial investigation at the National Bureau of Investigation (KRP), stated earlier that the man is believed to have committed some of the offences himself and urged his subordinates to commit others. The man, he added, is believed to be complicit to dozens of homicides of men, women and children.

“All forms of violence are represented in the investigation,” he commented to Helsingin Sanomat on 13 January 2021.

The defendant was allegedly one of the most high-ranking officials of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel army in Sierra Leone. The army, which has since evolved into a political party, operated in close collaboration with Charles Taylor, a convicted war criminal who served as the 22nd president of Liberia.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT