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Liberia ex-president Taylor takes stand denying war crimes allegations

[JURIST] Former Liberian president Charles Taylor [case materials; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday denied war crimes allegations [recorded video] while testifying for the first time at his trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website]. Taylor faces 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions [materials], and other violations of international humanitarian law stemming from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone. Taylor addressed allegations that he was "everything from a terrorist to a rapist," saying:

It is very, very, very unfortunate that the prosecution, because of disinformation, misinformation, lies, rumors, would associate me with such titles or descriptions. I am none of those, have never been, and will never be, whether they think so or not. [I] have fought all my life to do what I thought was right in the interest of justice and fair play. I resent that characterization of me, it is false, it is malicious.

Taylor also denied receiving jars full of diamonds by Liberian rebel forces. His defense claims that he could not have commanded rebel forces in Sierra Leone while acting as the president of Liberia.

Taylor's defense lawyers opened their case [JURIST report] Monday. His trial continues after the court denied his motion for acquittal [JURIST report] in May. Prosecutors previously expressed concern that the defense's list of 256 witnesses could make the trial last up to four additional years [JURIST report]. The list was defended by Taylor's counsel on the grounds that the prosecution, who rested their case in February, originally named 200 witnesses without intending to call all of them. The prosecution ended up presenting testimony from 91 witnesses.

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