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Taylor defense witnesses refusing to testify in fear of UN sanctions: lawyer

[JURIST] A defense lawyer for former Liberian President Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] told the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] Monday that potential defense witnesses are refusing to testify for the defense because they fear the possibility of UN-imposed sanctions. Lawyer Karim Khan told the court he planned to file a motion asking the court to grant witnesses protection from sanctions, including travel bans and the freezing of assets. Khan also said that the court has not provided enough funding to assemble an adequate defense team for Taylor; the prosecution's legal team is twice the size of Taylor's defense team.

Taylor's trial is scheduled to start in The Hague on June 4. The court has already delayed the trial [order, PDF] to allow the defense more time to prepare, but Taylor's lawyers still seek additional time. Taylor was indicted [amended indictment text, PDF; SCSL materials] in 2003 on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during the war in Sierra Leone. After being captured last year trying to flee Nigeria, where he had been in exile, he was taken to The Hague [JURIST report] to await trial. AP has more.

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