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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Taylor to watch World Cup in jail
By Norman Smith
BBC, Freetown

Television grab showing Charles Taylor at the hearing in Freetown, Sierra Leone
Charles Taylor is accused of war crimes in Sierra Leone

Charles Taylor will be able to watch the football World Cup from the comfort of his prison cell, where the former Liberian president is awaiting trial for his part in the civil war that devastated Sierra Leone.

Staff at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone have equipped his cell, which is about 6m by 4m, with a television, a radio and a DVD player. Coffee and tea are also available, as are books and films.

He enjoys better living conditions than most people in Sierra Leone, even though he is in jail.

Outside of the prison most ordinary people have to make do without any electricity or drainage.

They live in ramshackle structures often made of little more than rusted sheets of corrugated iron. Television is a rarity.

Earning perks

When I visited the cell block where Mr Taylor is being held, I was not allowed to see him, but I was shown into an identical cell adjoining his.

UN soldier guarding the Special Cout prison
Security at the prison is tight
It consists of a single bed, covered with a mosquito net, a desk and chair, and a fan.

Outside is a prison yard, where Taylor is free to walk from 0700 until 2000 each day.

There is a state-of-the-art medical facility next to the cell block, which prison staff say is probably the best in Sierra Leone.

Mr Taylor and the eight other inmates are provided with regular medical supervision to ensure they cannot later claim they were subject to any ill treatment while being held in the prison complex at the Special Court.

There is even what is called "a detainee earning scheme" whereby Mr Taylor and the eight other inmates can earn money to pay for perks, like Coca-Cola and cigarettes, by doing cleaning jobs around the prison complex.

They can also give the money they earn to their relatives.

Four days a week, relatives are allowed to visit Taylor.

The three groups, AFRC, RUF and CDF are well integrated.... They have a common cause now
Raymond Cardinal
Chief detention officer

The chief detention officer Raymond Cardinal told me that Mr Taylor liked to spend his time reading books, watching movies and banging a tennis ball against the cell wall.

The cell, said Mr Chandler, was actually larger than what is required under European prison standards.

Although the nine inmates fought on rival sides during the civil war, they now appear to get on.

Defendants from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), which seized power in 1997; their allies the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF); and the pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF) mingle freely with each other in the exercise yard.

"The three groups, AFRC, RUF and CDF are well integrated," said Mr Cardinal.

"There is no problem because they made an expression some time ago when we were talking about segregation that they were brothers now, even though they were combatants before.

"They have a common cause now."




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