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Taylor: Witnesses were threatened and paid to testify

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor yesterday said witnesses had been threatened and paid to testify against him in a trial that found him guilty of crimes against humanity.

Taylor — the first head of state to be found guilty by an international tribunal since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg — described the international court system as a tool of the West.

Taylor told the war crimes court in The Hague that Washington had used the case to achieve regime change rather than justice.

“Witnesses were paid, coerced, and in many cases threatened with prosecution if they did not co-operate,” he said at a sentencing hearing where his defence team hopes to minimise a possible 80-year jail term.

Taylor’s trial made headlines around the world, partly because of the grisly accounts of murders and mutilations, many carried out by child soldiers, and partly because of Taylor’s alleged gift of “blood diamonds” to supermodel Naomi Campbell who was called as a witness for the prosecution.

Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting on 11 counts of murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery during intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in which more than 50,000 people were killed.

But he was acquitted of ordering and planning the atrocities.

Dressed in a pin-striped suit, he lay his gold watch beside the lectern to keep to his assigned 30-minute time limit at the stand.

Taylor said the US and other powers involved in military actions in Africa and the Middle East were using the court to pursue colonial aims against smaller countries.

“Regime change in Liberia became a policy of the US government,” he said. “I never stood a chance. Only time will tell how many other African leaders of states will be destroyed,” he said and questioned the way his trial had been funded.

“The prosecution received millions of dollars from the US government outside of the official funding process to the court administration.

“The prosecution has never fully accounted for how those monies were spent... who received how much and for what purpose or purposes,” he said.

The prosecution has called for Taylor to serve jail terms amounting to 80 years, arguing his position as president, his level of education and the duration of the conflict are aggravating circumstances.

Taylor’s defence asked the court to consider a more lenient sentence, saying 80 years amounted to life for the 64-year-old.

He is due to serve any sentence in Britain.


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