The war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone has rejected a defense motion to acquit former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
lawyers asked the special court to acquit Mr. Taylor because they argue
prosecutors failed to present evidence linking him to the planning,
instigation, or execution of crimes committed during Sierra Leone's
10-year civil war.
The former Liberian leader pled not guilty to
an 11-count indictment of war crimes and crimes against humanity,
including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual enslavement, and
conscription of child soldiers.
At this point in the trial, judges were only to decide whether they have heard enough evidence to support a finding of guilt.
the defense motion for acquittal in its entirety, presiding judge
Richard Lussick says prosecutors have presented evidence that meets
"The prosecution has adduced evidence that the
accused provided arms, ammunition, financial assistance, manpower and
other supplies to other participants in the joint criminal enterprise
in furtherance of the common purpose, that he provided safe havens to
other members, that he provided moral encouragement and military
advice, the he facilitated the export of diamonds in return for arms,
that he facilitated communication between the various members of the
joint criminal enterprise, and that he had persons who he believed
endangered the common purpose killed," he said.
that while the evidence presented could be used to find Mr. Taylor
guilty, that does not mean the trial chamber will ultimately convict
Prosecutors say the former Liberian president led
Revolutionary United Front rebels across the border in Sierra Leone and
acted as their effective leader for much of the conflict.
the indictment of acts of terrorism, Lussick cited prosecution
witnesses who testified Mr. Taylor was involved in planning the rebel
"Operation No Living Thing," during which crimes set out in the
indictment were systematically committed against the civilian
He also rejected a defense motion challenging the
testimony of witnesses who referred to places in Sierra Leone by
slightly different names than those in the indictment.
not be appropriate or desirable to strike out the names of such
locations given that a variety of languages and dialects are spoken in
Sierra Leone and that some witnesses are illiterate. Thus, names of
locations mentioned by witnesses, which are similar, but not identical
to names of locations that appear in the indictment may refer to the
same location," he said.
With the rejection of their motion for
acquittal, Mr. Taylor's lawyers are scheduled to open their defense
case June 29. They say the former Liberian rebel leader will testify
in his own defense.
Mr. Taylor began a rebellion against
Liberian President Samuel Doe in 1989. He served as Liberian president
from 1997 until 2003 when he was forced into exile in Nigeria. He was
arrested in 2006 on a warrant from the special court jointly
established by the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone.
His trial was moved to The Hague because of fears that his supporters might disrupt proceedings in neighboring Sierra Leone.