23 January 2013

Liberia: Prosecutors Want Taylor Prison Term Extended

Photo: RNW
Charles Taylor in court.

Prosecutors at the ongoing appeal hearing of ex-president Charles Taylor have asked judges of the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone to rather extend his sentence by 30 more years.

The request came at the start of Taylor's appeal hearing Tuesday. The court sentenced Taylor to 50 years in prison last May for aiding and abetting the brutal Sierra Leonean civil war. But lawyers representing called the verdict a "miscarriage of justice" and want the conviction to be quashed.

Mr. Taylor's lawyers had earlier filed a motion seeking to present additional evidence pursuant to Rule 115 and paragraph 23 of the Court's practice and Direction for Grounds of Appeals.

Rule 115 (A) provides among others that a party may apply by motion to the Pre-hearing Judge to present before the Appeal Chamber additional evidence which was not available to it at the trial.

Article 23 of the Practice and Direction on the structure of Grounds of Appeal before the Special Court provides that a party applying to present additional evidence must do so by way of motion, in accordance with the Rules-starting with among others, the specific rule by which the application is made.

That request was denied by the judges on Friday January 18, 2013. The prosecution, however, wants the sentence extended to 80 years, saying Taylor also gave orders to the rebels. In the court's original judgment, Taylor was acquitted on these charges, with the judge finding that the prosecution had failed to prove its claims.

Ex-president Taylor became the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazis after World War II. The AFP reported Tuesday that the prosecution was the first to addressed the court.

The court should "hold responsible not only those who perpetrate the crimes but also those who promote them", said prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian. Taylor's lawyers have filed more than 40 grounds of appeal, arguing that the trial chamber's findings were based on "uncorroborated hearsay evidence".

"The colossal judgment, over 2,500 pages in length, is plagued throughout by internal inconsistencies, misstatements of evidence and conflicting findings," his lawyer Morris Anyah said in court papers quoted by AFP.

In court, defense lawyer Christopher Gosnell said: "There is nothing in the trial chamber's findings that would have allowed it to find that Charles Taylor knew that specific weapons or ammunition he had some role in providing would be used in a crime as opposed to a lawful purpose."

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