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Former Liberian President Taylor Assigned New Lawyers


Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been assigned new lawyers to defend him against war crimes charges at a U.N.-backed court in The Hague.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone said Wednesday that British attorney Courtenay Griffiths has taken the role as Taylor's lead counsel. He will be assisted by two other British lawyers, Andrew Cayley and Terry Munyard.

Taylor's trial began last month but was adjourned after the defendant fired his lawyer and complained he did not have enough money to employ a top-notch defense team.

Judges ordered that Taylor be given extra funds and assigned temporary counsel.

Taylor is accused of supporting rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war in exchange for diamonds. He has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Up to 200,000 people were killed in Sierra Leone's civil war. The Taylor-backed rebels are accused of mutilating thousands more.

Taylor has claimed he lacks the funds to pay for defense lawyers, forcing the court to cover those costs. However, a team of experts recently told the U.N. Security Council that Taylor still has access to considerable wealth. He allegedly amassed a $500 million in illegal diamond and timber sales during his rule in Liberia.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone is holding Taylor's trial in the Netherlands because of fears it could spark unrest in West Africa.

The trial is scheduled to resume August 20.

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