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Charles Taylor loses Hague bid

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor (file image)
Charles Taylor is accused of backing Sierra Leone's rebels

War crimes judges have rejected a request to acquit Liberia's former President Charles Taylor on charges of crimes against humanity.

Mr Taylor's defence team argued that there was not enough evidence for the trial to proceed.

The decision by the Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague means that Mr Taylor, who has pleaded not guilty, must now present his defence.

Tens of thousands of people died in Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war.

"The prosecution has produced evidence capable of supporting a conviction of the accused, " the presiding judge told the court as he dismissed the defence's request.

It is not unusual for a defence team to lodge a request for dismissal at this stage in an international tribunal's proceedings, analysts say.

The judge also stressed that the decision does not mean that the tribunal will convict Mr Taylor.

The trial is scheduled to continue on 29 June.

Charges

Charles Taylor faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over his alleged role in the brutal civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone, where he is accused of backing rebels responsible for widespread atrocities.

TAYLOR TIMELINE
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
March 2006: Arrested, sent to Sierra Leone
June 2007: Trial opens in The Hague

Prosecutors argue that Mr Taylor planned the atrocities, committed by Revolutionary United Front rebels, during the civil war, which only ended in 2002.

The specific charges relate to terrorising the civilian population, murder, sexual violence, physical violence such as cutting off limbs, using child soldiers and enslavement.

Mr Taylor took up arms in Liberia in 1989, before being elected president in 1997.

After a period of exile in Nigeria, he was eventually extradited from Liberia in 2006.

The trial is being held in The Hague, not by the International Criminal Court but by a United-Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

It was moved to the Netherlands from Sierra Leone's capital Freetown out of fear that it could foment instability in Sierra Leone and Liberia.



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