14 February 2013

Liberia: Taylor's Man Gets 30 Months in Jail

An investigator recruited by ex-President Charles Taylor's defence team will spend 30 months in jail (about 2 1/2 months) for tampering with prosecution witnesses in the Taylor's trial, Justice Teresa Doherty ruled Friday at UN backed Special Court for Sierra sitting in The Hague.

Prince Taylor, no relation to Mr. Taylor, was arrested last year and convicted on 25 January 2013 on five counts of contempt of court.

The first four counts alleged he had "otherwise interfered" with witnesses who had testified against former president Taylor.

The fifth count alleged that Prince Taylor had interfered with Eric Koi Senessie at a time when he was a potential witness in contempt proceedings before the Chamber.

Ex-President Taylor was convicted in April of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in supporting rebels during Sierra Leone's civil war, the first time a head of state has been found guilty by an international tribunal since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.

He is currently appealing the court's decision to sentence him for 50 years.

"The message...must be clear and must be emphatic," said presiding Judge Teresa Doherty on Friday during the sentencing. "Justice can only prevail when witnesses can speak out without fear or favour."

The sentence was lower than recommended by the prosecution. In imposing the sentence, Justice Doherty referred to a number of aggravating factors, but also noted Prince Taylor's previous good record, his service to justice during his seven years as a Special Court investigator, and his father's plea on his behalf at Thursday's sentencing hearing.

Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison for supporting RUF rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war. The court ruled he had funded and armed the notoriously brutal rebel group, often in return for so-called blood diamonds.

The rebels used drugged child soldiers they had abducted from their families to commit atrocities including rape, enslavement, beheading, disembowelment and maiming. Some 50,000 people died in the war, which ended in 2002.

Taylor's legal team launched appeal proceedings against the sentence in January. The UN-backed court was established to try those deemed to bear "greatest responsibility" for crimes committed in the West African war. Under the Special Court's Rules, both the Prosecution and the Defense have the right to appeal.

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