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Taylor's Family Concerned About Trial; Other Liberians Move On


The war crimes trial for former Liberian President Charles Taylor is set for early June at the Hague. Prosecutors at the Special Court for Sierra Leone have charged Mr. Taylor with war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to the killing and abuse of thousands of people during Sierra Leone's civil war. Mr. Taylor's family is concerned he will not get a fair trial. Most other Liberians appear not to be paying much attention to the court's proceedings. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar, with additional reporting by Prince Collins in Monrovia.

Sando Johnson, Mr. Taylor's cousin and an official spokesman for the Taylor family is cleaning up the offices of the association for the legal defense of the former president. He says the former president's family is doing well and moving on with their lives. But he says Mr. Taylor's upcoming trial is on their minds.

"What they are concerned about is the well-being of their brother, the former president of Liberia, that is their primary concern right now," he said.

"They are worried about his well-being, they are worried about his trial, and asking that he be given a fair trial, and saying that under the law Mr. Taylor is innocent until proven guilty," he continued.

John Richardson, another Taylor cousin, is the executive director of the association. He says the international community has made it hard for the defense team to get help.

"Publicly, the United Nations, the United States, have created considerable fear about the mere mention of the [Taylor] name," he said. "So a lot of people are publicly frightened as to what could possibly befall them should they want to help or even show sympathy with the plight of Mr. Taylor."

But a student at the University of Liberia, Varneh Karneh, says he is grateful the international community made it possible to force Mr. Taylor out of power.

"His [Taylor's] regime was characterized by tyranny, he was very very much despotic and he even brought the entire subregion, the entire Mano river subregion into complete and total disrepute," he said.

Charles Taylor launched Liberia's civil war in December 1989. He is accused of using child soldiers during the conflict. He is also blamed for perpetuating a bloody civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone by supplying weapons to rebels in exchange for diamonds.

Taylor left the presidency in Liberia in 2003, under pressure from rebels seeking to oust him from power. He went into exile in Nigeria but vowed to return. He has denied all charges of war crimes against him.

A resident in the capital, Monrovia, says whatever happens to Mr. Taylor, Liberians are doing fine not thinking of their former president.

He said, "We have normal life going without Mr. Taylor and his family and we love living a normal life."

Other Liberians say they are happy Mr. Taylor is being tried for his alleged role in Sierra Leone's conflict, rather than for what he may have done in Liberia. They say they too are ready to put memories of war behind them.