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Dutch timber dealer receives split verdict on Liberia arms trafficking charges

[JURIST] A Dutch court convicted arms dealer Guus Kouwenhoven [Trial Watch backgrounder] of violating the UN embargo against former Liberian President Charles Taylor's government, but found him not guilty of war crimes, saying he did not have direct knowledge of the atrocities committed during the Liberian civil war. Kouwenhoven was generally accused of trading guns for timber [Radio Netherlands report] to assist Taylor in destabilizing Sierra Leone in a bid to gain access to diamond stockpiles. The UN Security Council released a 2001 report [PDF text] banning Kouwenhoven from traveling, accusing the arms dealer of breaching Security Council Resolution 1343 [PDF text], the embargo against the Taylor regime, and of being "someone who supported the efforts of ex-President Taylor in destabilising Sierra Leone to gain illegal access to its diamonds."

Both the prosecution and the defense plan to appeal the split verdict, as lawyers for Kouwenhoven say he was merely "involved" with the Oriental Timber Co. [Perspective backgrounder] through which the deal was made, while the prosecution says there is enough evidence to convict Kouwenhoven on the more serious war crimes charges, though the ruling said the connection was too vague. Taylor [JURIST news archive] is currently awaiting trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] on charges [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law. AP has more.

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