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Nigerians Bring Case Against Former Liberian President

Two Nigerians, who were tortured in Sierra Leone, have been allowed to bring a case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is currently in exile in the Nigerian town of Calabar. Mr. Taylor has been indicted for crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in the civil war in Sierra Leone, but has never faced trial.

The Nigerian Federal High Court rejected an objection from the Nigerian government, and said that David Anyaele and Emmanuel Egbuna have the right to bring a case against Mr. Taylor because of the suffering they endured.

Mr. Anyaele and Mr. Egbuna say they were attacked by rebels backed by Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, in 1999. They say rebels hacked off Mr. Anyele's arms and set him on fire, and also mutilated Mr. Egbuna's wrists.

Atrocities such as chopping off people's hands were common during Sierra Leone's decade long civil war. Charles Taylor has been accused by an international court in Sierra Leone of backing the Revolutionary United Front rebels, accused of carrying out such atrocities, and of trading arms to the RUF for diamonds.

The Nigerian government has refused to extradite Mr. Taylor to the U.N.-backed court. Nigeria offered him exile in 2003, when he stepped down from power as part of an agreement that ended 14 years of civil war in Liberia. Nigeria says it will only turn Mr. Taylor over, if asked to by an elected Liberian government.

A journalist in Abuja, Gilbert da Costa, says the government has already made it difficult for the two men to serve papers to Mr. Taylor.

"They had requested the state authorities to take responsibility for serving him with the court papers, but they refused," said Mr. da Costa. "And so the judge agreed with their submission that instead of having to serve him personally, it should be published in a couple of national newspapers and that should be sufficient notice for him."

The Nigerian plaintiffs argued that their government should not have granted Charles Taylor asylum under international law, which prohibits giving asylum to war criminals.

A private practice lawyer in Abuja, Eze Okechukwu, who has been following the case, says he doubts it will be affect the government's decision to grant Mr. Taylor asylum.

"The issue of political asylum is essentially and largely a political one," said Eze Okechukwu. "I agree the Nigerians, have every right not to be happy with the government. But if you look at the larger aesthetic, you find out that, if Charles Taylor was not granted asylum, the crisis would have continued."

The lawyer for Mr. Anyaele and Mr. Egbuna says the two men do not want a financial settlement, but want the former president to stand trial.

The trial date has been set for December 6, but government lawyers say they will appeal the ruling to allow the case.