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Liberia: Trouble with Taylor trial

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    Trouble with Taylor trial By Gibson Jerue Updated Apr 18, 2006, 05:18 pm Email this article http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_2557.shtml A
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2006
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      Trouble with Taylor trial
      By Gibson Jerue
      Updated Apr 18, 2006, 05:18 pm Email this article

      A street vendor sells a copy of the local newspaper in the streets of
      Freetown, Mar. 31. Toppled Liberian president Charles Taylor is being
      carefully guarded as he awaits trial on war crimes charges in an
      international court, the chief prosecutor said in a recent interview.

      Photo: AP/World Wide Photos

      FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (allafrica.com) - Liberian ex-president Charles
      Taylor prefers to be tried in Freetown rather than The Hague in the
      Netherlands, his four-man defense team told the Special Court Apr. 3.

      "He wants to be tried in Sierra Leone and nowhere else," said his
      principal defense counsel, Vincent Nmehielle of Nigeria.

      Mr. Taylor, who made a debut appearance before the special court Apr.
      3 to plead on an 11-count indictment of war crimes and crimes against
      humanity charges brought against him reportedly told his lawyers that
      even though he feared for his safety in Sierra Leone, he wanted to be
      tried in the region, in part because it would be easier for defense
      witnesses to appear. The reason for his decision, according to the
      lawyers, is that Freetown represented the lesser of two evils.

      While Foday Sankoh died in the same cell now assigned him, the leader
      of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, died recently in his cell while facing
      war crimes and crimes against humanity in The Hague. Mr. Taylor then
      requested that the court put in place a mechanism whereby his security
      would be assured.

      "We consider our mission accomplished," said Kofi Akainyah, a Ghanian
      member of the defense team even though the court is yet to rule on the
      new request that contradicts widespread security concerns of Taylor
      relatives and counsels, as well as the Government of Liberia.

      Court chief prosecutor Desmond de Silva dismissed such concerns,
      insisting that Mr. Taylor has no reason to fear for his safety.

      The announcement, which left most of the 100 spectators of the crowded
      courtroom flabbergasted, came shortly after preliminary court
      proceedings in which Mr. Taylor, having failed to convince the court
      that it lacked jurisdiction to try him, pleaded not guilty.

      "Most definitely, your honor, I did not and could not have committed
      those acts against the sister republic of Sierra Leone. I think that
      this is an attempt to continue to divide and rule the people of
      Liberia and Sierra Leone and so, most definitely, I am not guilty,"
      Mr. Taylor said after Justice Richard Lussick read the charges against

      The charges against him include murder, rape, sexual slavery, physical
      violence and cruel treatment, recruiting child soldiers and
      terrorizing the civilian population.

      The chief prosecutor at the court describes the 58-year-old Taylor as
      one of the three worst war criminals in the world, alongside the
      Serbian fugitives Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. According to him,
      Mr. Taylor provided the RUF leader Foday Sankoh with training, money,
      arms and ammunition to start his rebellion in Sierra Leone, and even
      lent him fighters to take part in the initial attack. He also alleged
      that the former president of Liberia shared a common plan with the
      rebel commanders to gain power and control over Sierra Leone, so he
      could gain access to its diamonds and have a government in Freetown
      that would support his aims, our correspondent says.

      Security was tight at the Special Court in Sierra Leone, the country
      to which Mr. Taylor is accused of exporting his civil war. Court
      officials who received death threats and Mr. Taylor will be protected
      by bulletproof glass and dozens of UN peacekeepers from Mongolia and
      Ireland. The Rapid Response troops of the United Nations Mission in
      Liberia (UNMIL) of the Irish and Sweden forces, aided by their
      Mongolian counterparts, were posted around the main compound at New
      England and within the compound itself.

      Some Sierra Leoneans harbor fears that the Taylor trial in Freetown
      may cause some security problems for the city and are therefore
      suggesting that he be taken to some other place, like The Hague to be
      tried there. But the Netherlands has reportedly set three conditions
      before the country can host the trial. The former Liberian president
      also told the court that he needs the moral support of his family
      members and relatives and requested the court to work out means to
      allow his family to visit him.

      The leader of the defense team, Francis Garlawulo, questioned whether
      Mr. Taylor could receive a fair trial given intense publicity
      surrounding the case, saying in recent days images of Sierra Leoneans
      maimed by rebel fighters have dominated the world's television screens.

      One of his sisters, Louise Taylor Carter, said she does not believe he
      will receive a fair trial because "he has already been indicted, tried
      and sentenced in the papers and in the media."



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