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Liberia ex-president may go free due to budget constraints on war crimes court

[JURIST] Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website; JURIST news archive] prosecutor Stephen Rapp [official profile] has told Reuters that lack of court funds due to the global economic downturn may require the release of former Liberian President Charles Taylor [case materials; JURIST news archive]. The SCSL has charged Taylor with 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity for his involvement in the Revolutionary United Front, a rebel organization allegedly responsible for the murder of Sierra Leone citizens. The SCSL's budget comes entirely from individual donations, and it expects a shortfall [Reuters report] of close to five million dollars. Without sufficient funding, the judges in the case may be forced [Guardian report] to release Taylor from custody. Should he be set free, the indictments would stand, leaving open the possibility for further legal action.

Earlier this month, officials had announced [JURIST report] that they expected the court to render a verdict by 2010, despite the SCSL's ongoing financial troubles. After complaints [JURIST report] of prejudice in 2007, the SCSL increased Taylor's defense funding [JURIST report] to $100,000 a month. Taylor claims to be indigent, but critics argue [JURIST report] that he has millions of dollars hidden in African banks.

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