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Three Men Plead Not Guilty To War Crimes Before Sierra Leone's Special Court - 2003-03-18

In Sierra Leone, the special court has held its second day of hearings. Three people appeared before the court, including a government minister who pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the country’s civil war. The chief prosecutor at the court says no one is above the law.

At the court session, former junta leader Alex Tamba Brima pleaded not guilty to 17 counts against him, including war crimes charges. He was a member of the AFRC junta forces who staged a coup in May 1997. He is also accused of leading the forces that attacked Freetown on January 6th, 1999, resulting in widespread amputations of civilians.

The second defendant to appear was rebel commander Morris Kallon, who was deputy area commander and battlefield commander for the rebel Revolutionary United Front, or RUF. He also pleaded not guilty to 17 counts against him. Later, in closed session, former internal affairs minister, Chief Sam Hinga Norman, had also faced the court.

The closed session was held for security reasons. Also Chief Prosecutor David Crane denied Mr. Norman was harassed or abused by court officials. The defendant pleaded not guilty to charges including unlawful killings of soldiers and civilians, loot, burning and conscription of child solders.

English to Africa reporter Kelvin Lewis has details from Freetown. Click the above links to download or listen to his report.