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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Award for Liberian green activist
Silas Siakor taking photos of timber
Silas Siakor risked his life to get evidence of the timber trade
A Liberian man who exposed illegal timber exports under former President Charles Taylor has receive this year's US Goldman Environmental Award.

Silas Siakor, 36, was honoured for providing evidence that the government illegally sold timber to finance militia groups during the civil war.

Mr Taylor, charged with war crimes, used timber revenue to buy arms after being banned from selling diamonds.

"I feel vindicated," Mr Siakor told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Mr Siakor submitted documents to the UN Security Council, which then banned exports of "blood timber" from Liberia.

Mr Siakor is one of six people to receive the award in San Francisco.

Vital evidence

The director of Liberia's Sustainable Development Institute said he had a network of informants, which monitored the entire timber exporting process, from the forests to the port.

"A significant proportion of revenue - millions of dollars - was not being reported," he said.

Silas Siakor
He says the ban on Liberia's timber exports should remain
"The evidence Silas Siakor collected at great personal risk was vital to putting sanctions in place and cutting the links between the logging industry and conflict," said Arthur Blundell, chairman of the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia.

Sixteen timber companies either set up militia groups or bought weapons, Mr Siakor said.

He says Liberia's timber exports should remain banned until the industry is reformed, as local communities still do not really feel the benefits and corruption remains rife.

The award comes as Dutch timber trader Guus Kouwenhoven, 63, goes on trial in The Hague, charged with illegally selling Liberian timber in exchange for weapons on behalf of ex-President Taylor.

Mr Taylor stepped down in 2003 to end a 14-year civil war.

He was arrested last month and has been charged with war crimes for his alleged role in neighbouring Sierra Leone's civil war.

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