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Africa
Judges reject Taylor acquittal
Former Liberian president loses bid for acquittal on war crimes charges.
Last Modified: 05 May 2009 04:44 GMT

Charles Taylor has pleaded not guilty to charges of mass murder, rape and mutilation [EPA]

 

Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone have rejected a request by Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, that he be acquitted of war crimes charges.

The special tribunal meeting on Monday in The Hague said he must account for allegations of waging a campaign to terrorise Sierra Leone through mass murder, rape and mutilation.

It ordered the trial to resume next month.

Taylor, 61, is accused of fomenting Sierra Leone's conflict by supporting the Revolutionary United Front guerrillas during his own country's civil war from 1989-2003.

His legal team have argued there is not enough evidence to support the charges.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery.

But following the close of the prosecution case, Judge Richard Lussick said there was enough evidence "capable of supporting a conviction of the accused".

Supporting evidence

An estimated 120,000 people died during the 10-year conflict in Sierra Leone [EPA]
"[T]he trial chamber finds that there is evidence on which it could find that the accused and others shared a common purpose to take part in a campaign to terrorise the civilian population of the Republic of Sierra Leone," he said, rejecting an application for Taylor's acquittal.

"The [trial] chamber ... dismisses the defence's submission in its entirety."

Lussick also rejected a request by the defence for a delay in the start of the defence case.

Prosecutors say Taylor sought to control Sierra Leone's diamond mines and destabilise its government to boost his regional influence.

About 120,000 people were killed in the conflict in Sierra Leone, with rebels mutilating thousands more – cutting off arms, legs, ears or noses.

The former Liberian president is accused of arming, training and controlling RUF rebels, blamed for many of the mutilations, and of being involved in the trade of so-called "blood diamonds".

Taylor has been on trial in The Hague since June 2007 following his arrest in Nigeria and his subsequent handover to the tribunal.

He had gone into exile in 2003 in a deal that ended Liberia's civil war.

The trial is being held on the premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague for fear that his presence in Freetown, the Sierra Leone capital where the special court was set up, could destabilise the region.

Source:
Agencies
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