The court indicted Taylor in March 2003 on 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for encouraging civil war in Sierra Leone through an illicit trade in guns for diamonds.

The charges were condensed to 11 counts in March 2006 to ensure a more focused trial.

Taylor was moved to The Hague in June 2006 due to fears a trial in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, could spark unrest there, or in Liberia.

The UN Security Council authorised the former Liberian leader's transfer after Britain said it would jail him if found guilty.

The defence said it faced difficulties preparing for the trial due to a lack of office space and equipment in The Hague, which it said subjected the team to "intolerable" working conditions.
 
The court said it is currently organising offices for the defence, which are expected to be ready in February.

The court turned down a defence request for a September 3 start to the trial and the prosecutor's proposal for a July start, saying both dates would have led to undue delay of the trial given that Taylor has been in custody since February last year.

Taylor's rise to power in 1989 led to a 14-year, on-and-off civil war in Liberia that spilled across regional borders.
 
He fled into exile in Nigeria in 2003 but was returned to Liberia and transferred to the court in Sierra Leone in March.