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Charles Taylor to appeal war crimes conviction

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will appeal his conviction and 50-year sentence for war crimes committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive], his lawyers notified the court on Monday. In a brief filing with the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] his lawyers informed the court [AFP report] that an official notice of appeal was forthcoming. Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison in May after he was convicted [JURIST reports] of war crimes a month earlier. He was accused of planning as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebel forces in exchange for diamonds during the civil war, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces, enslavement and pillage. At the sentencing hearing, Taylor claimed [JURIST report] he had "sadness and deepest sympathy for the atrocities and crimes suffered in Sierra Leone" but that he was not responsible for actions taken by rebel forces during the decade-long civil war.

In February Taylor's lawyers asked that the SCSL reopen the case [JURIST report] in light of new evidence, including a report by the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia. His lawyers claimed that the new evidence demonstrated that Taylor was not instrumental in the war crimes committed by rebel forces, but the court declined to reopen the case. The SCSL heard closing arguments [JURIST report] in March 2011. Taylor denied all the charges [JURIST report] against him.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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