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Liberia

Taylor reportedly 'upset' after war crimes charges read in court

Reuters/Jerry Lampen
2 min

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor did not return to court for his war crimes trial following a coffee break on Tuesday. Taylor's lawyer stormed off earlier in the day after arguing with judges. The prosecutor began closing arguments at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone on Tuesday morning before the break.

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"He said he was upset and needed some rest," said court official Claire Carlton-Hanciles, who responded to the judge after it was noted Taylor was not present in the courtroom.

Taylor was described as an "intelligent, charismatic manipulator" by the prosecution, as they read through his indictment in court on Tuesday. This included 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone over a 10-year period. Some 120,000 people died during the civil war.

He "was in charge of, put in place, directed, nurtured and supported the campaign of terror," said prosecutor Brenda Hollis, all "to forcibly control the people and territory of Sierra Leone [...] and to pillage the resources, in particular the diamonds."

Hollis was referring to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels who were paid in diamonds to fight a brutal war, which included rebels mutilating people and hacking off limbs of men, women and children.

Taylor's laywer Courtenay Griffiths had stormed out because the judge had refused to accept him filing a document 20 days after the deadline.

"There was an order made this morning that he remain in court," said the judge. "He has deliberately both blighted that order and absented himself voluntarily," she added, ordering the hearing to continue.

Griffiths was supposed to present the defence's closing arguments on Wednesday, but has said he would not do so "pending the decision of the appeals chamber" on the judges' refusal of his brief.

 

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