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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Liberia's Taylor appears in court
Charles Taylor (archive)
Charles Taylor has said the trial would not be fair
Liberia's former President Charles Taylor has appeared at his war crimes trial in The Hague for the first time.

Wearing a blue suit and a yellow tie, Mr Taylor, 59, turned up after the judge had explained why his trial would again be delayed - until 20 August.

The delay is to appoint a defence team after Mr Taylor sacked his lawyer. He has boycotted previous hearings.

He denies charges of backing rebels in Sierra Leone in an 11-year campaign that killed thousand of civilians.

This is the first war crimes trial against a former African head of state.

Mr Taylor has said the trial, which began last month, would not be fair.

'Disorganisation'

He turned up 20 minutes after the hearing started, reportedly because of problems with transport from the prison where he is being held.

CHARLES TAYLOR CHARGES
Acts of terrorism (WC)
Murder (CAH)
Violence to life, in particular murder (WC)
Rape (CAH)
Sexual slavery and violence (CAH)
Outrages upon personal dignity (WC)
Violence to life, in particular cruel treatment (WC)
Other inhumane acts (CAH)
Use of child soldiers (VHL)
Enslavement (CAH)
Pillage (WC)

CAH: Crime against humanity
WC: War crime
VIHL: Violation of international humanitarian law

He was asked to enter a plea to a reworded charge of sexual slavery and rape.

"I plead not guilty, your honour," Mr Taylor replied.

BBC World Affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says his unexpected appearance may indicate that his complaints have been addressed.

Before his arrival, presiding judge Julia Sebutinde had told the court that unless the defence team was given adequate time to prepare, it "would be a violation of Mr Taylor's fair trial rights in so far as counsel would not be able to effectively cross examine witnesses or challenge witnesses".

The prosecution has accused Mr Taylor of manipulating the court, but one of the judges conceded in public that mistakes had been made, including the placing of a surveillance camera in the room where Mr Taylor spoke to his lawyers.

The judge also admitted there had been "some kind of disorganisation" among court officials.

One of the main problems has been money.

Mr Taylor says he has none, so the court is paying for his defence.

But - through his lawyers - the former Liberian leader has argued that he should have a legal team appointed for him that is equal to the powerful international group of advocates working for the prosecution.

'Blood diamonds'

Mr Taylor has been indicted on 11 charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law over his alleged role in the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone.

The charges include terrorising the civilian population, murder, sexual violence, physical violence, using child soldiers, enslavement and looting.

TAYLOR TIMELINE
Map
1989: Launches rebellion
1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone
1995: Peace deal signed
1997: Elected president
1999: Liberia's Lurd rebels start insurrection to oust Taylor
June 2003: Arrest warrant issued
August 2003: Steps down, goes into exile in Nigeria

Mr Taylor pleaded not guilty to all the charges when he appeared in court in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in March 2006.

The trial was moved to The Hague because of fears it could lead to renewed tensions within Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone has been approved by both the UN and the government of Sierra Leone.

Mr Taylor is accused of backing the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone - giving them guns, training and money in exchange for diamonds from the areas they controlled.

The RUF became notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians during their decade-long war.

Mr Taylor lost power in 2003 after rival militias rose up and forced him into exile in Nigeria.

He was deported by Nigeria last year in controversial circumstances and flown to The Hague to await his trial.


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Charles Taylor appears in court


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