Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 16:40 UK

Liberians wary as Taylor testifies

By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC News, Monrovia

Charles Taylor at The Hague, 14 July
Charles Taylor's trial has dominated the media in Liberia

Liberians have been reacting to the appearance on Tuesday of their former president, Charles Taylor, before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.

For many it was the first time they had heard from their former leader, who stepped down from power in 2003 under international pressure.

It was a move that ended the West African nation's 14 years of war.

Mr Taylor's appearance dominated street discussions and newspaper and radio news headlines on Tuesday.

In a country where leaders are traditionally held in high respect, some expressed their amazement to see an ex-president in the dock.

People in the capital, Monrovia, were eager to watch the testimony, and to see whether their former leader was still his spirited old self - or if his detention had demoralised him.

'Justice is peace'

Some said they were frustrated that there was no live feed of Tuesday's hearing on big screens - something they said had been promised by officials from the UN-backed special court running the trial.

They were left to catch up on the news from afternoon television and radio broadcasts, with crowds of people gathering round TV sets to catch a glimpse of Mr Taylor in court.

Sitting in a cafe in central Monrovia Anthony Taylor - no relation to the ex-leader - said Mr Taylor's appearance "was an opportunity for me to hear my former president after a long while".

He said Mr Taylor's appearance "has disproved the minds of many who had thought he was not going to co-operate".

On Mr Taylor's denial of the allegations against him, Anthony Taylor said: "The charges are still allegations. The brother has the right to deny them until the court finds him guilty."

J Lincoln Momo, playing chess in a Fula roasted meat shop on Monrovia's busy Carey Street, said he had doubts about the trial.

"I feel the trial is not transparent because I saw that Mr Taylor was denied [the opportunity] to see his lawyer before he took the stand," he said.

"I believe that the trial has not been fair because there is no law that prevents a client from meeting his lawyer during trials like this."

But Alvin Gonowolo, a university student, said: "Let's give due process a chance. We can only ask for a free trial."

"Taylor has to go through the process because justice is peace."

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