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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Taylor flies in for Hague trial
Charles Taylor (Photo: Special Court for Sierra Leone)

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor has arrived in the Netherlands where he is to be tried on war crimes charges.

For security reasons, the UN-backed tribunal in Sierra Leone moved his trial to The Hague from Freetown where he has been in jail since his capture.

Mr Taylor faces 11 charges after allegedly backing rebels in the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war.

Last week, the United Kingdom offered to host any jail term he may serve, paving the way for his transfer.

The government of the Netherlands agreed Mr Taylor's trial could take place there, as long as he is imprisoned in another country if he was convicted.

On Tuesday morning, he was taken by helicopter to Freetown's airport from his prison cell in the capital.

Mr Taylor is in a very reflective and pensive mood. This is his whole life we're talking about
Jewel Taylor

The trial is due to take place in the facilities of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but legal officials assigned to the Special Court for Sierra Leone will be responsible for its conduct.

The proceedings have been moved because of concerns that a trial in Sierra Leone itself could provoke instability there.

Mr Taylor's wife said he had been aware that he would be transferred to The Hague this week and was happy the process was under way so he could state his side of story.

"Mr Taylor is in a very reflective and pensive mood. This is his whole life we're talking about," Jewel Taylor, a serving senator in Liberia, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.


The tribunal's chief prosecutor once described Mr Taylor as the third most wanted war crimes suspect in the world.

1989: Launches rebellion
1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone
1995: Peace deal signed
1997: Elected president
1999: Lurd starts rebellion to oust Taylor
June 2003: Arrest warrant issued
August 2003: Steps down, goes into exile in Nigeria
March 2006: Arrested, sent to Sierra Leone

Both Sierra Leone and Liberia are recovering from years of conflict, in which Mr Taylor played a central role.

He is accused of funding Sierra Leone's former rebels, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) by selling diamonds on their behalf and buying weapons for them.

The RUF were notorious for mutilating civilians, by hacking off their arms or legs with machetes.

Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, sent troops to help oust rebels from the capital, Freetown in 2000.

Mrs Taylor said that the case against her husband was politically motivated.

"There is not basis for the charges that have been levied on Mr Taylor," she said.

"The cutting off of arms and legs of the Sierra Leoneans was done by Sierra Leoneans themselves. We didn't have that situation in Liberia. Charles Taylor has not been convicted or charged by his own people."


She said they were struggling to raise money to fund his legal fees at The Hague, but there were indications that people would help him.

"We're praying for God's will to be done and that it will be as quick as possible so that it brings closure to this issue."

Mr Taylor is the first African former head of state to go on trial at an international war crimes court.

He started Liberia's civil war as a warlord in 1989, before being elected president in 1997.

In August 2003, with rebels already in the Liberian capital, he agreed to go into exile in southern Nigeria to end the conflict.

He was captured after disappearing from his home following diplomatic efforts to send him to Sierra Leone for trial.

Tens of thousands of people died in the interlinked conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Also on Tuesday, the UN Security Council lifted a timber embargo on Liberia for 90 days but kept in place a diamonds ban. They had both been used during the civil war to finance arms trafficking.


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