Wikileaks cables admitted in Charles Taylor trial

27th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The court trying Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor for war crimes admitted into evidence Thursday two leaked US government cables he claims prove that his trial is political.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone granted the warlord's application for permission to reopen his case to admit the documents obtained by Wikileaks and published in the Guardian newspaper in December.

"Trial Chamber II ... grants leave to the defence to reopen its case for the limited purpose of admitting the following documents into evidence", a court decision said, listing two US government cables dated March 10 and April 15.

Taylor's trial on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity started in earnest in The Hague in January 2008.

The 62-year-old has pleaded not guilty to all charges stemming from the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone which claimed some 120,000 lives.

Taylor, who insists that the case against him is based on "lies", claimed in a written application that the US cables "raise grave doubts about the independence and impartiality" of his trial.

The first cable quotes the US ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, as saying that "all legal options should be studied to ensure that Taylor cannot return to destabilise Liberia".

The second allegedly reveals that sensitive information about the trial was leaked to the US embassy in The Hague by "unnamed contacts" in the court and the office of the prosecutor.

Taylor stands accused of fuelling war in Sierra Leone by arming the RUF in exchange for so-called "blood diamonds". The RUF is blamed for the mutilation of thousands of civilians who had their hands and arms severed in one of the most brutal wars in modern history.

The prosecution objected to the documents being admitted, but the court ruled they "can be related to submissions made by defence counsel as well as sworn evidence by the accused".

The prosecution closed its case in January 2009, having called 91 witnesses. Taylor's defence formally closed in November last year.

Closing arguments in the trial are expected on February 8, 9 and 11.

© 2011 AFP

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