Page last updated at 22:36 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 23:36 UK

Liberian ex-leader's son on trial

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor (file image)
Charles Taylor Snr faces war crimes charges in The Hague

The son of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor has gone on trial in the US accused of torture.

Prosecutors says Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr led a unit that tortured and executed government opponents in Liberia between 1999 and 2003.

The case is the first test of a US law that allows prosecution of citizens who commit torture overseas. Charles Taylor Jr was born in the United States.

His father is on trial in The Hague, where he faces 11 war crimes charges.

The charges relate to his alleged role in the brutal civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone, where he is accused of backing rebels responsible for widespread atrocities.

'Hugely important'

Chuckie Taylor faces charges related to his role in Liberia as commander of a paramilitary force tasked with protecting his father.

He and his troops are accused of using brutal torture such as burning and electric shocks on captives. He is also accused of taking part in summary executions.

He has been charged with eight offences, including five counts of torture, and could face life imprisonment.

Chuckie Taylor denies the charges. His trial is expected to last up to two months.

US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said the trial was "hugely important" for victims in Liberia.

"This is one of the few prosecutions to date for atrocities committed during Liberia's wars," HRW lawyer Elise Keppler said in a statement.

Chuckie Taylor is the first person to be tried under a 1994 law which enables prosecutors to charge US citizens with torture committed overseas.

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