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Former Liberian Leader Makes First War Crimes Court Appearance


Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has appeared before an U.N.-backed tribunal to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Security was tight as Taylor's appearance before the Freetown, Sierra Leone court began Monday. He will be asked to enter a plea to the 11 charges that the court has filed against him.

The indictments stem from his alleged support for Sierra Leone rebels, accused of widespread atrocities during that country's civil war.

Taylor is being represented today by the court's defense attorneys, but has reportedly asked for the services of American lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard University law professor.

Members of Taylor's family have said they do not think he can get a fair trial in Sierra Leone.

The court has asked to move the proceedings to the Netherlands, citing concerns that Taylor's presence could spark unrest in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Last week, Britain sponsored a draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would authorize the move.

If approved, the proceedings would likely take place in The Hague, under the jurisdiction of the Sierra Leone court.

Taylor was handed over to the court last week after Nigerian officials detained him trying to flee the country, where he lived in exile for three years.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.