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Taylor trial key witness in hiding: SCSL chief prosecutor

[JURIST] A key witness in the war crimes trial [JURIST report] of former Liberian President Charles Taylor [SCSL case materials; JURIST news archive] has been moved into hiding after being threatened for testifying before the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website], chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp said Thursday. Varmuyan Sherif, one of Taylor's former bodyguards, testified in January that Taylor had supplied weapons, cash and gear to militia involved in Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war [BBC backgrounder], which ended in 2002. Other potential witnesses have also received threats, while still others have testified in closed door sessions for fear of retaliation from Taylor's supporters. AP has more.

Also Thursday, Rapp said in an AFP interview [AFP report] that he was close to seizing $600 million of Taylor's assets, thought to have been stolen from the Liberian treasury or obtained from trafficking in blood diamonds. Rapp said he is working with a special team from the British government to ensure that the assets are distributed to victims in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In July 2007, the Liberian government submitted a draft bill [JURIST report] to the country's legislature to authorize the government to seek foreign assistance to track, freeze and confiscate Taylor's funds, properties and assets. Taylor faces eleven charges [indictment, PDF], including murder, rape, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers during the bloody civil war in Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive].

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