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Ex-Liberian President Makes First Appearance at War Crimes Tribunal


Former Liberian president and notorious warlord Charles Taylor has appeared in a Hague courtroom for the first time since he was flown to the Netherlands for his war crimes trial. Taylor's lawyers used to the opportunity to complain about the conditions of his detention.

Charles Taylor did not speak throughout the 50-minute hearing held in the International Criminal Court on Friday.

Instead, his lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan objected to the conditions of Taylor's imprisonment. He called the food Taylor was being served Eurocentric, and said
he was often kept locked up in his cell for 16 hours a day.

Court registrar Herman von Hebel called the problems start-up issues, which he would help overcome next week.

Taylor is facing eleven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2000 in which many victims had body parts hacked off. In June, the Netherlands agreed to host the trial, after the U.N.-backed court on Sierra Leone, which is conducting the trial, said it felt it was not safe to try him in Sierra Leone.

Khan also criticized remarks made by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which he said described war crimes suspects like Taylor as criminals. The AP news agency quoted Khan as saying these comments were not just unseemly but repugnant to justice.

Presiding judge Richard Lussick said judges would ignore Annan's comments and would not be influenced by any other remarks made outside the courtroom.

Taylor made headlines in March when he was captured in Nigeria. He had fled from his exile home in southern Nigeria, when Nigeria agreed to hand him over to Liberia. His was immediately transferred into the custody of the Sierra Leone court.

While prosecutors were hoping to start the trial early next year, Khan said it would take until at least next July to prepare a case of what he called this "size and magnitude."

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