Taylor’s war-crimes trial delayed until 2008

Judges on Monday postponed until January 2008 the war-crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor on charges of directing atrocities in Sierra Leone after his defence asked for more time to prepare.

Taylor, accused of instigating murder, rape and mutilation in a quest for diamonds during the West African country’s civil war, boycotted the opening of his trial in June in a dispute over the resources allocated his to defence, prompting weeks of legal wrangling and repeated delays.

More funds were eventually made available to Taylor with which a new defence team was appointed last month. The team requested a delay until next January to prepare their case.

”In the chamber’s view the period of four months is indeed a reasonable time … to grapple with a complicated case,” said Judge Julia Sebutinde, who noted the prosecution had not opposed the request for more time.

Taylor’s chief defence counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, said: ”We are anxious to get on with this trial. We appreciate the accused has spent a considerable amount of time in custody and we appreciate that there are other pressures on this court.

”Time allowed now will help reduce the length of the trial in due course and save money,” he added.

Judges agreed and granted the four-month postponement the defence had requested.

Taylor attended the hearing, wearing a smart double-breasted grey suit with gold cufflinks. During proceedings he listened attentively and took notes.

Griffiths said there were about 40 000 pages of material submitted by prosecutors to be examined, and a further 50 000 pages of material from Taylor’s personal archives had surfaced in Monrovia, which could be crucial to the case.

The Special Court was set up with United Nations backing to try some of those deemed most culpable for crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone’s 1991 to 2002 civil war.

Drugged-up rebels and militia fighters, often only children themselves, killed, raped and maimed men, women and children.

Taylor’s trial is being held in The Hague because of fears it could spur instability if held in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The trial will resume on January 7 2008. — Reuters

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