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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Liberian leader's strange day in Ghana
By Paul Welsh
BBC West Africa correspondent, Ghana

Liberian President Charles Taylor
Taylor: a former warlord turned president
The Liberian President, Charles Taylor, has flown home to a welcoming crowd, despite a warrant being issued for his arrest on war crimes charges while he was abroad.

The president had been in Ghana for the opening of peace talks with Liberian rebels, when the war crimes tribunal in neighbouring Sierra Leone announced that they want to try him for crimes against humanity there.

Far from arresting Mr Taylor as the tribunal had requested, the Ghanaian Government flew him home in one of their own official jets.

It was a fitting end to a strange day.

I broke the news of the war crimes charges against Charles Taylor to his Information Minister, Reginald Goodridge, to a look of genuine shock and disbelief.

When I did the same to the Foreign Minister, Monie Captan, he said: "It's not a problem - we don't recognise that court".

'No request'

The war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone wrote up the charges three months ago.

They waited until Charles Taylor was out of his country, somewhere he might be arrested, before making it all public.

It's not a problem - we don't recognise that court
Monie Captan
Liberian Foreign Minister
But the arrest never came.

I asked Ghana's interior minister - the head of the police here - what they were going to do. He asked: "About what?"

Ghana's foreign minister said he had not officially received any request - he had not been in his office all day.

He told me: "As much as I respect the BBC, I can't arrest people on their reports."

For two hours, the Liberian president sat under the spotlights on the stage of the conference centre in a room packed with the Ghana army and surrounded by the Ghana police.

Residents in Monrovia gather round a radio to hear news
Liberians stopped to hear the news on the radio
Next to him on one side, the special representative of the United Nations - the backers of the court; on the other, the most powerful president on the continent, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Nearby, the president of Ghana, whose country had been asked to make the arrest, President Kabbah of Sierra Leone - where President Taylor is wanted - and Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, who says President Taylor is supporting some of the rebels in his country, too.

No-one mentioned the indictment - apparently, it did not exist.

Charles Taylor, the man wanted for trial on war crimes, finally got a police escort, to the airport to go home.

Sierra Leone accused in court
15 Mar 03  |  Africa
Bringing justice to Sierra Leone
17 Jan 02  |  Africa
UN extends Liberian sanctions
06 May 03  |  Business
Country profile: Liberia
27 May 03  |  Country profiles

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