Taylor's lawyer storms out of court

Defence lawyer for former Liberian president accused of war crimes walks out in protest as closing arguments begin.

    Charles Taylor has denied the 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, calling them 'lies' [Reuters]

    The defence lawyer for Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, has stormed out of a war crimes court in The Hague, after judges refused to accept a last-minute document.

    "Our presence in court is incompatible in representing the interests of the accused," British lawyer Courtenay Griffiths said after judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone said the defence could not file a written summary because they had missed a January deadline.

    "How will posterity judge the credibility of this court if, at this 11th hour, they prevented Mr Taylor from presenting ... 90 per cent of his closing arguments?'' he said outside court in the Netherlands. 

    Despite the walkout the court continued hearing the prosecution's closing arguments in the three-year case against Taylor, who is accused of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers during civil war in Sierra Leone.

    Prosecutors have also alleged that Taylor tried to win control to exploit the country's diamond resources.

    "Charles Taylor, this intelligent, charismatic manipulator, had his proxy forces ... carried out these crimes against helpless victims in Sierra Leone," prosecutor Brenda Hollis told the court.

    "All this suffering, all these atrocities, to feed the greed and lust for power of Charles Taylor."

    But the first former African head of state to be tried by an international court has denied the charges, pleading innocent to all 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    He has cast himself as a statesman who tried to pacify Western Africa and has said the allegations against him are lies.

    Taylor boycotted the opening of his trial in June 2007 and fired his defence team, saying he had not had enough time to prepare. The trial began again six months later with the first witness.

    Griffiths has now threatened to boycott the rest of the week's hearings and also told reporters he will appeal Monday's decision against the defence summary, requesting that appeals judges allow him to submit the evidence and reschedule the closing arguments.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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