Judges threaten to 'sanction' Charles Taylor's lawyer

9th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The court trying Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor for warcrimes ordered his lawyer to appear before it Friday and threatened "sanctions" if he did not apologise for storming out.

In a document made public after Taylor and his lawyer boycotted the trial for a second day Wednesday, the Special Court for Sierra Leone said it was directing defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths to attend a hearing scheduled for 11:30 am (1030 GMT) on Friday.

The directive "warns lead counsel that unless he |(Griffiths) apologises for his behaviour on February 8, 2011, the trial chamber may impose sanctions."

The court was forced to adjourn the case Wednesday as Griffiths remained absent after storming out the day before, prompting his client just over an hour later to refuse to return to the courtroom after a coffee break.

Taylor sent a notice to the courtroom on Wednesday that he "waived his right to be present".

According to the court's rules of procedure, sanctions against "abusive" or "obstructive" defence counsel could include their removal from the case, fines, or reporting to a professional body.

When he stormed out of the courtroom on Tuesday in frustration with the judges' refusal to allow his late filing of a document summarising the defence case, Griffiths ignored repeated warnings to sit down.

Taylor, 62, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly arming rebels who maimed and murdered Sierra Leone citizens in a battle for control of territory and resources, particularly diamonds.

He is the first African head of state to be tried by an international court.

© 2011 AFP

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