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Liberian Leader's Hague Testimony 'Risky Strategy' Says Former Prosecutor

The former Chief Prosecutor of the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra leone said he's surprised by former Liberian President Charles Taylor's testimony at his war crimes trial in The Hague.

Taylor is facing a number of charges, including war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war.

Taylor told the court Tuesday that he was not guilty of the charges against him, and that he was surprised that the prosecution was relying on what Taylor called misinformation and rumors.

Crane, who is now a professor at the College of Law at Syracuse University in New York, prepared the charges against Taylor.

He said Taylor’s testimony is contrary to the evidence.

“The case against him in the indictment that I signed on March of 2003 showed clearly that [President Charles Taylor of Liberia] was directly involved in the tragedy that took place in Sierra Leone," Crane said. "So the fact that he is actually denying these charges against him was a surprise. I think it is a very risky strategy.”

He said there is specific evidence linking Taylor to the crimes he is charged with, including payoffs from Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels of Sierra Leone.

“There are several smoking guns. During the investigations and the great job the prosecution did and during the presentation of their case, there was witness after witness, both inside and others who said that Charles Taylor was directly involved," he said.

Crane said it is important for people to understand that during their trial, RUF rebels consistently brought up Charles Taylor’s name and implicated him in the crimes.

"This is a very interesting defense, he has a right to have that defense and to make that defense and he is allowed to make that defense, but I was quite surprised to see that he is some ways denying everything,” he said.

Crane says Taylor’s claim that he has not been directly linked to any of the atrocities flies in the face of overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

“Your listeners have to understand that there are ways a head of state can be implicated in crimes and crimes against humanity," he said.

Crane said one of the charges against Taylor included aiding and abetting the war crimes that took place in Sierra Leone as well as having command responsibility.