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Taylor trial will continue as scheduled despite boycott: prosecutor

[JURIST] The trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will continue as scheduled, despite Taylor's boycott of the trial's opening last week, according to Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp Monday. Taylor, who is being tried in front of the UN-backed court for crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law, had boycotted the start of proceedings against him [JURIST report], saying in a letter to the court that he had no confidence in the SCSL to dispense justice because he was prevented from seeing his preferred lawyer and because his single court-appointed defense lawyer was outnumbered by the prosecution team. Taylor's assigned lawyer, Karim Khan, told the court last week that Taylor has fired him and is seeking to represent himself. Khan subsequently left the trial, despite court requests that he remain as counsel to Taylor for at least the first day of proceedings. Opening statements by the prosecution continued in Taylor's and Khan's absence.

Taylor's trial adjourned after last week's opening statements, and will resume on June 25 to present evidence and hear witnesses. Charges against the former president [indictment text, PDF] include murder, rape, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive]. If acquitted, he will be permitted to return to Liberia; if convicted, he will serve his jail time in Britain. The trial, which is expected to last 18 months, was relocated to The Hague from Sierra Leone [JURIST report] for security reasons last year. Voice of America has more.

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