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Taylor Seeks Lawyers, Activists Want Useful Trial


As former West African warlord Charles Taylor seeks a defense team for his trial at the special war crimes court for Sierra Leone, human rights activists are calling for a fair and useful trial.

The Freetown director for London-based Amnesty International, Brima Sheriff, called Wednesday for a fair trial for Charles Taylor and that he be treated as humanely as possible.

Another prominent Freetown human rights activist, Abu Brima, tells VOA, he believes Taylor could provide information that could help bring to justice those responsible for Sierra Leone's decade long civil war.

"Bringing him to face the music that he created [Bringing him to trial for the situation he created] is certainly a welcoming thing. But of course, we believe that Taylor has a lot of information: Who was involved? Who was sponsoring him? To whom was he selling diamonds? Those are all people who were part of this equation and we think that they must be brought to book," said Brima. "Taylor has answers and he can help us to bring them to book [to justice]."

When he pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity earlier this week, Taylor presented himself as an African victim of an international conspiracy. Brima, for his part, does not believe that kind of defense will help Sierra Leone or Taylor.

Relatives and advisers to the former Liberian president continue to arrive in Freetown, trying to find a good team of lawyers to defend him and money to pay them.

Taylor is believed to have amassed a fortune while coming to power in Liberia and spreading instability throughout West Africa, charges he repeatedly denied before the court proceedings began.

Meanwhile, Swedish officials say the United Nations has been asking Sweden and other countries to consider jailing Taylor if he is convicted. The trial is expected to be moved to the Netherlands for security reasons after a Security Council resolution on the matter is passed.