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Prosecutor Says Former Liberian President Charles Taylor May Go Free

The chief prosecutor in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor says Taylor may go free because of a funding shortage at the court trying him for war crimes.

Reuters news agency quotes prosecutor Stephen Rapp as saying donations to the Special Court for Sierra Leone are down because of the worldwide economic recession.

Rapp says if the court runs out of money, it is possible judges will have to release Taylor.

The former Liberian leader is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for alleged actions in Sierra Leone during that country's civil war.

Prosecutors say Taylor's forces murdered or mutilated thousands of civilians, and kidnapped children for use as soldiers and sex slaves.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He is being tried at The Hague, in the Netherlands, because of fears that Taylor's presence in Sierra Leone could spark unrest in West Africa.

The prosecution concluded its case against Taylor last month.

The U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up to try alleged war criminals from Sierra Leone's 1991 to 2002 civil war.

The Reuters report quotes the tribunal's registrar, Herman von Hebel, as saying important donors such as Ireland, France and Germany have cut their contributions this year.

He says the court is seeking out other donors in the Middle East in hopes of raising $30 million to continue operating through 2010.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.