Former Liberian warlord and president, Mr. Charles Taylor will be allowed to speak in his defense at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, for the first time. In previous hearings, Mr. Taylor could only pass notes to his lawyer and hold whispered conversations with him.
Mr Taylor who becomes the first African leader to be tried by an international court is ready to deny charges of terrorism, murder, rape and torture in Liberia and in Sierra Leone, while his lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths insists that Mr. Taylor had tried to broker peace in Sierra Leone.
The trial was moved to the Netherlands from Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, for fear that Mr. Taylor’s plea of innocence could generate anger, violence and create instability in the country and neighbouring Liberia.
Reports claim that Mr. Taylor supplied arms to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in exchange for diamonds from Sierra Leone. The RUF were known to use machetes to hack limbs off civilians, under the authority and command of Mr Taylor during Sierra Leone’s civil war, which ended in 2002.
Charles Taylor’s alliances
Mr. Taylor’s alliances and friends over the years have included Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, former ruler of Ivory Coast Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the current President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, and a list of corrupt businessmen, local and foreign, prepared to flout UN disapproval to make money in Liberia.
But Charles Taylor lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, insist that his client could not have have managed a rebel operation in Sierra Leone, while running affairs of state in Liberia.
Mr Griffiths went on to claim that Mr Taylor had tried to broker peace in Sierra Leone, adding that the prosecution’s case against his client was based on unfounded rumors.
Mr Taylor started a civil war in Liberia 1989, before being elected the country’s president in 1997. In 1999, the United Nations accused him of gun vendoring and diamond smuggling.
In 2008, Mr. Taylor was detained by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone last year after a period of enforced exile in Nigeria.