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Sierra Leone Special Court Readies For War Crimes Trials - 2004-05-26


The Special Court for Sierra Leone is to begin trials of war crimes suspects next week.

The first three to stand trial are members of the Civil Defense Forces, also known as Kamajors. They face charges of unlawful killings, abductions, sexual violence and the use of child soldiers. Sierra Leonean soldiers and rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, or RUF, are also to stand trial.

But, so far, one of the main suspects remains at large: Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia. He is accused of backing the RUF in exchange for diamonds. He is also suspected of helping the al-Qaeda terrorist network gain access to diamonds, which they allegedly used to finance their activities.

Former Washington Post reporter Doug Farah investigated Mr. Taylor?s alleged connection to al-Qaeda and documents the terrorist organization?s presence in West Africa in his new book, ?Blood from Stones ? The Secret Financial Network of Terror.?

Mr. Farah said he was surprised that the United States has not sought Mr. Taylor?s arrest more actively, given the former president?s involvement in Sierra Leone and alleged links with al-Qaeda. The State Department says it is up to Nigeria to turn Mr. Taylor over to the Special Court. Nigeria gave Mr. Taylor asylum when he fled Liberia in August last year.

Mr. Farah spoke to VOA?s Cindy Shiner. Click above links to download or listen to interview.

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