News / Africa

Prosecution Makes Closing Arguments in Taylor Trial

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor awaits the start of the prosecution's closing arguments during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, February 8, 2011
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor awaits the start of the prosecution's closing arguments during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, February 8, 2011

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was back in court in The Hague to hear the prosecution's closing arguments in his three-year old war crimes case. But his defense lawyer was not. He walked out of the trial, calling it a farce.

The trial of Charles Taylor is wrapping up the same way it began three years ago: with a walk-out by the former president's lawyer and by Taylor, as well.

Courtenay Griffiths defied judges' orders to stay in court and listen to the prosecution's closing arguments, saying it was not possible to properly defend his client after judges refused to accept his own written closing trial brief after deadline.

"In our submission, our very presence in court is incompatible with our duty to protect Mr. Taylor's interests,” Griffiths said. “And it is our intention, both myself and Mr. Taylor, to leave court at this point."

But Mr. Taylor stayed behind alone for a while and listened as prosecutors accused him of trying once again to manipulate the court. Prosecutor Brenda Hollis launched into the details of her closing argument: that Charles Taylor is ultimately and criminally responsible for the horrors of war he inflicted on the people of neighboring Sierra Leone using his proxy rebel RUF fighters.

Taylor remained in the courtroom for a while, but refused to return after a break. A court official told a judge that Mr. Taylor said "he was upset and needed some rest."

"Charles Taylor, this intelligent, charismatic manipulator had his proxy forces and members of his Liberian forces carry out these crimes to forcibly control the people and territory of SL [Sierra Leone] and to pillage its resources, in particular its diamonds, and they would do this through their agreed criminal means, a campaign of terror he waged on the innocent people of SL with all its attendant crimes,” Hollis said. “All this suffering, all these atrocities, to feed the greed and lust for power of Charles Taylor."

Prosecutor Hollis detailed some of those atrocities in court: killings on a mass scale, public amputations, mothers forced to laugh as their children were buried alive or to carry their severed heads, mass rapes, enslavement in diamond mines and children conscripted to fight. Some 120,000 people were killed and thousands of more mutilated during the country's 10-year civil war.

Taylor maintains he is innocent of the 11 counts he's charged with at this Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Defense lawyers were scheduled to make their closing arguments Wednesday, but lawyer Griffiths says he will boycott the proceedings pending his appeal of the judges' decision not to accept his written brief.

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