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War crimes trial of ex-Liberia president Taylor concludes

The war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] concluded Friday leaving judges in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] to deliberate on the verdict. The prosecution gave its closing arguments [BBC report] where it said Taylor was an intelligent many who had fooled many people and relied on fooling the judges in this case. In its closing arguments, the defense argued that witnesses against Taylor had been rewarded [OSJI report] by the court for their participation in the trial. The defense noted that all international tribunals reimburse witnesses for reasonable expenses related to their participation but argued that it appeared the witnesses against Taylor had actually profited making their testimony unreliable. The defense pointed to payments of some witnesses for "appreciation" as an example that witnesses were given gifts for providing evidence. Taylor has argued that the charges against him are politically motivated. The judges adjourned to deliberate on the verdict, which is expected to take several months. Taylor could face life imprisonment if convicted.

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. 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.

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