The Pirkanmaa District Court acquitted the charges Gibril Massaquoi The verdict on Friday afternoon included charges including murder, aggravated rape and aggravated war crimes.
In its decision, the court found that although there was reason to suspect Massaquoi of the offenses with which he was charged, the prosecutor in the case had not unequivocally established his guilt.
The court further noted that the defendant had never been prosecuted in Liberia – where the suspected crimes were believed to have taken place – and that an exceptionally long period of 20 years had elapsed since the alleged crimes were committed.
According to the criminal charges, Massaquoi, who has lived in Finland for more than ten years, ordered the murder, torture and mutilation of civilians when he was one of the leaders of a rebel group in Sierra Leone that took part in both the Sierra Leone and Liberian civil wars in 1999-2003. He consistently denied all charges.
He was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in March 2020, following an investigation that began in 2018.
The prosecutor in the case had originally demanded life imprisonment because the charges were considered exceptionally cruel.
Massaquoi had been in pre-trial detention for about two years until February this year, when the court released him pending a verdict on the case.
The trial was unique in Finnish legal history, as the suspected crimes had not been committed in Finland and members of the district court traveled to Liberia several times to hear witnesses from dozens of witnesses.
Civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone 20 years ago
According to the prosecutor, Massaquoi was a leader in the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The group received support from the former president of Liberia and a convicted war criminal Charles Taylorwho is currently in prison following his conviction by the UN – backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.
However, Massaquoi’s leadership in the organization changed, and in 2002 he agreed to testify against RUF members after the end of the Civil War in Sierra Leone. He was placed in a witness protection program and moved to Finland in 2007 or 2008 and eventually settled in Tampere.
Allegations of his actions in Liberia began to emerge, and the Finnish authorities launched an investigation into Massaquo around 2018, which eventually led to his arrest.
The judgment of the district court in the case is not final, so it can be appealed to a higher court. The prosecutor in the case has not yet said whether he intends to appeal.
Source: The Nordic Page