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Supporters Defend Taylor's Boycott of Court

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor boycotted the opening of his trial Monday at the UN-backed Special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. Chief Cyril Allen is former chairman of Taylor’s National Patriotic Front Party and one who has maintained constant telephone contact with the former President.

From the Liberian capital, Monrovia, he told VOA Taylor did not appear in court Monday because he feels he will not receive transparent justice.

“He has to have a choice of his lawyers, and he has to be properly represented. If he feels he is not represented properly, legally he feels that he can do better to represent himself; I think he has a right under international law to represent himself. And he will do better than any other lawyers,” he said.

Special Court sources said that as of last Friday (June 1), Taylor’s lawyers were part of a special administrative meeting of all the principal parties to the case. But they did not mention his lack of confidence in the ability of the court to dispense justice.

Allen said Taylor has been complaining for a long time that he was not pleased with the Special Court.

“He’s been saying time and again that there is no proper legal representation and no one would listen. These are handpicked lawyers who are going to represent the interest of international community and not his interest,” he said.

Allen said Taylor is competent to represent himself, and if the court grants his wishes, he would appear when the court reconvenes.

“Of course he would appear in court. He has nothing to run away from or to hide. I always said that Taylor fought war in Liberia for 12 years. He never ran away from guns. So he’s not going to run away from legal proceedings. He has submitted himself to the legal procedure, but he said he is opting to represent himself. I think he should be able given the opportunity to represent himself,” Allen said.

Some critics of Taylor said he might be trying to delay his trial the same way he prolonged the end of Liberia’s 14-year civil war. But Allen said the former Liberian president wants a chance to represent himself.

“Whatever people think is their prerogative. What is important is for Mr. Taylor to have proper representation and a cream of counselors of his choice to represent his interest,” Allen said.

Allen said Taylor has put forth one or two Liberian lawyers to represent him. But he said the Special Court is being selective who should represent the former Liberian president.

“They are selecting who they think should defend Mr. Taylor in such a high profile international case, and I don’t think it is their decision to decide who represents him. It is his decision to choose a core of lawyers that would represent his interest, and he should be given the opportunity to select his lawyers to represent him because he doesn’t feel that justice would be transparent if handpicked lawyers represent his interest,” Allen said.