Charles Taylor driven by "greed", court told

8th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Charles Taylor was driven by greed and power lust in arming rebels who terrorised Sierra Leone citizens in a brutal civil war, judges trying the Liberian ex-president were told on Tuesday.

"All these atrocities to feed the greed and lust for power of Charles Taylor," prosecutor Brenda Hollis said in closing arguments before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, going through the list of charges against him.

"Charles Taylor bears the greatest responsibility for the horrific crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone through the campaign of terror inflicted on them," Hollis told Taylor's warcrimes trial in Leidschendam, near The Hague.

The prosecution claims Taylor, described by Hollis as an "intelligent, charismatic manipulator", armed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels who staged one of the most brutal conflicts in modern times, in exchange for illegally mined diamonds.

The Sierra Leone civil war claimed some 120,000 lives in the 10 years to 2001, with RUF rebels mutilating thousands of civilians who had their hands and arms severed.

"Charles Ghankay Taylor was in charge of, put in place, directed, nurtured and supported the campaign of terror," said Hollis, all "to forcibly control the people and territory of Sierra Leone ... its resources, in particular its diamonds.

Taylor, 62, received "mayonnaise jars" of so-called blood diamonds from the RUF, a handful of which he presented to supermodel Naomi Campbell at a charity dinner in South Africa in 1997, according to testimony before the court.

Taylor, whose lawyer stormed out of the court on Tuesday to protest the judges' refusal to pardon the late filing of a document, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The defence was scheduled to present its closing arguments on Wednesday, followed by two hours of rebuttal for each side on Friday.

The judges will then retire to consider their judgment, expected in mid-2011.

Taylor's trial, the first ever for an African head of state in an international tribunal, started in earnest in January 2008.

© 2011 AFP

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