Accessibility links

Son of Former Liberian Leader Convicted of Torture in Florida Trial

The son of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor has been convicted in the southern US state of Florida on charges of torture and committing atrocities. Chuckie Taylor's conviction stems from his role as the leader of a so-called anti-terrorist unit, known as the Demon Forces, that operated under his father's rule. Prosecutors say the unit was really used to attack the opposition and train soldiers to fight in neighboring countries, such as Sierra Leone.

Syracuse University Law Professor David Crane is the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who signed the indictment against Charles Taylor. Taylor is now on trial at a courtroom at The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Professor Crane spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about Charles "Chuckie" Taylor.

"Charles Taylor, or Chuckie Taylor of course, he goes by several names. Charles Chuckie Taylor Junior, also known as Charles McArthur Emmanuel, was an American citizen. And was coming back to the United States after his father was finally handed over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone for a fair and just trial and he got popped (arrested)…basically on a passport violation. And he was dealt with there and then. The US Justice Department realized they had a little monster on their hands -- someone who tortured people as head of the anti-terrorism unit -- and charged him with five counts related to that torture and he was convicted on three," he says.

Reacting to the guilty verdict, Crane says, "I always thought…it's about the victims. It's called justice. Chuckie Taylor was an apple that really didn't fall very far from the tree."

In Miami, US Attorney R. Alexander Acosta has called the conviction "historic." But Crane says, "Certainly, it's important. I'm not sure it's historic. Certainly, he's the first American, I think, to be convicted on the torture statute, but it is significant."

And he says that the conviction sends a message. "It sends messages to US citizens, who move about the world or who are involved with those who are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, that they certainly open themselves up under US law for a possible indictments if they are profiting or being a part of organizations, governments, what have you, that in fact cause torture to happen in another part of the world," he says.

As for the trial of the senior Taylor, Crane says it's "moving along" and he expects a verdict next year.