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Liberia: warlord Charles Taylor on trial

By on November 10, 2009

Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor, the first African ruler to stand trial for war crimes, will be cross-examined on Tuesday. The 61-year-old has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Here are some facts about Taylor: TAYLOR’S ROAD TO TRIAL: * Prosecutors from the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone have said Taylor sought to control neighbouring Sierra Leone’s diamond mines and destabilise its government to boost his regional influence. They say he directed the Revolutionary United Front rebels in a campaign of terror against civilians.
* The Special Court indicted Taylor in June 2003 on 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the war in Sierra Leone but condensed the charges to 11 counts in 2006 to ensure a focused trial. He has pleaded not guilty to them all.
* The charges included acts of terrorism, murder, rape, enslavement, conscripting child soldiers, sexual slavery, pillage and outrages upon personal dignity.
* Taylor was moved to The Hague in June 2006 due to fears that a trial in Freetown could spur unrest in Sierra Leone or Liberia. If convicted, he would serve his jail sentence in Britain.
* A defence lawyer for Taylor said last April there was no evidence he planned and instigated atrocities in Sierra Leone and asked the war crimes court to acquit him of all charges. The prosecution closed its case against Taylor on Feb. 27 after 91 witnesses were presented.
LIFE DETAILS: * Taylor was born in January 1948 to a family of Americo-Liberians — a small but traditionally powerful group descended from the freed slaves who founded the West African country of Liberia in the 19th century.
* A Christian who studied in the United States and enjoyed tennis, Taylor’s trademark outfit was a white suit with a cane.
* Taylor worked for Liberian President Samuel Doe running the General Services Agency, a position that gave him control of much of Liberia’s budget. Doe accused him in 1983 of embezzling almost ê1 million and Taylor fled to the United States.
* Jailed by U.S. authorities for embezzlement, Taylor escaped from his Massachusetts cell in 1985 after a year. He resurfaced in Ivory Coast and launched a rebellion in 1989 to topple Doe.
* The Liberian war ended in 1996 with 200,000 dead. Taylor became president after a campaign memorable for the macabre unofficial slogan: “You killed my ma, you killed my pa. I’ll vote for you.” * But Taylor’s foes rose again and, under U.S. pressure, he stepped down and handed over the country to former Vice President Moses Blah. Taylor accepted asylum in Nigeria as part of a peace plan.

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