A Finnish court today acquitted a former Sierra Leonean rebel on trial for war crimes during the final years of Liberia’s civil war, following a trial marked by an unprecedented transfer to Liberian soil.
Helsinki, Finland | The Pirkanmaa court found that the prosecution had not “proved with sufficient certainty” that the accused, 52-year-old Gibril Massaquoi, known as ‘Angel Gabriel’, was involved in the rapes, murders and recruitment of child soldiers for which he was indicted.
At the trial, the court in Tampere, southwest Finland, also held that “the defense had shown that it was probable that the accused was not in Liberia at the time the crimes were committed”.
Gibril Massaquoi was a senior member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), an armed group in Sierra Leone led by Corporal Foday Sankoh, close to former Liberian warlord-turned-President Charles Taylor.
Was the accused detained in Finland in 2020, where he had been living in exile since 2008, following an initiative by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Civitas Maxima to try to bring those responsible to justice?.
After the end of the trial in January, Gibril Massaquoi was released in February by the Finnish justice and awaited the announcement of the verdict.
The Finnish court moved to Liberia in early 2021, and became the first court in the African country to try crimes committed during the 1989-1996 and 1999-2003 civil wars.
These wars, among the most terrible Africa has ever known, were marred by abuse of all kinds and left 250,000 dead and left the country, one of the poorest in the world, devastated.
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