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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Militia leader eyes S Leone poll
Sierra Leone's ex-Defence Minister and militia leader Sam Hinga Norman
Sam Hinga Norman will not be allowed out of custody to campaign
A Sierra Leone war crimes suspect has said he wants to contest presidential elections due next year on behalf of the ruling party.

Sam Hinga Norman is the former head of the militias formed to fight rebels and is under detention by a UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

He is accused of ordering atrocities during Sierra Leone's long civil war.

A court spokesman told the BBC that Mr Norman would not be allowed out of custody to campaign.

Many in Sierra Leone see Mr Norman as a hero for organising the Civil Defence forces, or Kamajors, to stand up to the brutal Revolutionary United Front rebels.

He was defence minister during the war.

Child soldiers

Mr Norman has written to the Special Court for Sierra Leone to ask to be allowed to campaign but this has been denied.

Sierra Leone amputees playing football
Sierra Leone is trying to come to terms with its brutal civil war
"He faces very serious counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity," court spokesman Peter Andersen told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

One of the charges is the forcible conscription of child soldiers - the first time the crime has been prosecuted under international law.

"When you're in detention, you lose some of your rights," Mr Andersen said.

Ruling Sierra Leone People's Party Secretary-General Prince Harding said Mr Norman had the same rights as any other party member to seek election as party leader.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is due to step down after serving two terms.

Earlier this year former military ruler Valentine Strasser said he had formed a party to contest the poll.

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