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Lawyer for ex-Liberia president argues bias in war crimes trial

A defense lawyer representing former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday accused the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] of political bias during his closing arguments in Taylor's trial [OSJI backgrounder] in The Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. British defense lawyer Courtenay Griffiths [official profile] called the trial a "21st-century form of neo-colonialism" and criticized the court for being politically biased [BBC report], citing information found in US documents released by Wikileaks [website; JURIST news archive] and the international court's failure to indict other African leaders, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who is currently under investigation [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity. The closing arguments, which were originally set to begin last month, had been postponed pending an appeals chamber decision to accept the defense's final written brief [JURIST reports] after the trial chamber disregarded the brief because it was 20 days late. The arguments are scheduled to finish [OSJI report] on Friday.

Taylor has denied [JURIST report] the charges [indictment, PDF] against him, which include murder, rape, sexual slavery and acts of terrorism stemming from from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive]. Taylor's defense lawyers opened their case [JURIST report] in July 2009 and have claimed that he could not have commanded rebel forces in Sierra Leone while acting as the president of Liberia. His trial continued after the court denied his motion for acquittal [JURIST report] in May 2009. Prosecutors previously expressed concern that the defense's list of 256 witnesses could make the trial last up to four additional years [JURIST report].

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