12 November 2012

Liberia: Taylor Fit for Trial

Lawyers representing the legal interests of ex-President Charles Taylor have disputed rumors that their client was being ill-treated at The Hague, but claimed they have identified 45 legal errors in his verdict.

"Anybody who feels Taylor is beaten or ill-treated is making a mistake, Taylor's new lead Defense Counsel, Morris A. Anyah told journalist Thursday. He added that the spirituality of his client has kept him going.

He said oral arguments into the Appeals filed by ex-President Charles Taylor against his 50-year sentence on "aiding and abetting" Sierra Leone's brutal civil war is expected to start in January 2013. Closing arguments and ruling will be expected around October or November the same year if the court's schedule stands.

Mr. Anyah claims systematic errors through the judgment as grounds for appeal against his client's verdict. He said Taylor is resolute and is determined to fight his appeal to the end.

Taylor, 65, was found guilty on 30 May 2011 of all 11 counts of aiding and abetting the deadly rebel campaign in Sierra Leone. But he has insisted on his innocence as his lawyers prepared for the hearing which has in between schedules pretrial conferences next month.

Mr. Anyah, who maintained that there were flaws in the judgment, said parts of the verdict were based on hearsay, with allegations of bribery of prosecution witnesses to testify against the convict.

He also repeated earlier defense claims that the 50-year jail sentence of his client (Taylor) was hash, especially for the crime of aiding and abetting. He noted that the verdict is not accepted because an individual cannot be given punishment that is equal or more than the doers of the act.

Mr. Anyah stressed the significant of Taylor's appeal, saying this should be the concern of all of West Africa, and encouraged the government of Liberia to stay online with the issue of Charles Taylor.

He added that the future of Liberia is yet to come, and Taylor's issue should now be debated here so as to provide a clear understanding to the young people who will take over Liberia afterwards.

Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in jail by the UN-backed war crimes court for Sierra Leone on 30 May 2011 after being found guilty of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war. Special Court for Sierra Leone judges said the sentence reflected his status as head of state at the time and his betrayal of public trust.

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