"Heroes" trial opens in dramatic style

07 June 2004 by Thierry Cruvellier and Kelvin Lewis

Freetown, 3 June 2004. All the signs pointed to a smooth opening day in the trial of Sam Hinga Norman, national coordinator of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), his number two, Moinina Fofana, and Allieu Kondewa, responsible for initiation ceremonies for the pro-government militia.

The judges took their seats in the impressive but unfinished courtroom, and listened attentively to prosecutor David Crane who read out his charges against the three defendants. "On this solemn occasion, mankind is once again assembled before an international tribunal to begin the sober and steady climb upwards toward the towering summit of justice," he began. The American prosecutor has a penchant for lyricism. His forty-minute opening statement was peppered with his familiar rhetorical flourishes. "Horrors beyond the imagination will slide into this hallowed hall as this trek upwards comes to a most certain and just conclusion," continued Crane, in stony-faced solemnity. After more preliminary remarks about "the valley of death", the "jackals of destruction", and "the light of truth" that will cast the "beast of impunity" into darkness, the prosecutor tackled the facts of the case.

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