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Taylor Denies Meeting With Rebel Leader on Eve of Sierra Leone War

  • Kate Thomas

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor denies testimony by a prosecution witness that he met with rebel-leader Foday Sankoh on the eve of the Revolutionary United Front's invasion of Sierra Leone.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has testified at his war crimes trial that he did not meet with a rebel leader on the eve of the invasion of Sierra Leone.

The 61-year-old is facing 11 counts of war crimes allegedly committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone. His defense case, conducted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, is now in its ninth week.

Among the allegations, prosecutors say he provided weapons to the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone in exchange for access to so-called "blood diamonds."

The 1991 invasion of Sierra Leone sparked a brutal civil war in the West African country, marked by tussles over diamonds and participation by child soldiers. At least 50,000 people were killed in the 11 year conflict, which ended in 2002.

Taylor refuted claims that he met with Foday Sankoh, the leader of the Revolutionary United Front rebel group, the day before Sierra Leone was invaded.

Sankoh, a former army corporal and photographer, led the first attacks on villages in a diamond-rich province of Sierra Leone in 1991.

A prosecution witness alleged that the former Liberian president had traveled on the road to Voinjama, the main city in northern Liberia, close to the borders of Guinea and Sierra Leone, a day earlier.

But Taylor said he did not. "He is lying," he said. "There is no way I was in any convoy on the road. He made that up. It is a lie."

Since his defense case began in July, the former president has repeatedly dismissed the prosecution's claims as lies.

He continued to do so today. "If I was on that road, I would say I was on that road," said the former Liberian president. "I was never on that road in February or March or April or May or June or July of `1991, ever. No, he lied."

The defense case continues Thursday.