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I fought corruption, says Taylor

Charles Taylor in court 14.7.09
Charles Taylor denies backing rebels during the civil war

Liberia's former president Charles Taylor has told his UN war crimes trial that he spent years fighting corruption before he took power.

He told judges in The Hague he joined the government in 1980, but his anti-corruption stance made him unpopular.

Mr Taylor emerged victorious from Liberia's civil war in the 1990s. But the charges he faces are related to the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

He denies 11 charges including murder, terrorism, rape and torture.

Mr Taylor's British lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, is leading the former president through a reconstruction of his life and the circumstances of his 1997-2003 premiership.

Analysts at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone say the lawyer is trying to portray Mr Taylor as a virtuous leader and peacemaker, rather than the vicious warlord prosecutors say he is.

'Deceit, deception, lies'

Mr Taylor appeared in the witness box for the first time on Tuesday, two years after his trial began.

CHARLES TAYLOR CHARGES
Map
Violation of humanitarian law: Conscripting child soldiers
Crimes against humanity: Terrorising civilians, murder, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement
War crimes: "Violence to life", cruel treatment (including hacking off limbs), pillage

He dismissed the case against him as "lies".

An estimated 500,000 people were killed, mutilated or suffered other atrocities in the civil war in Sierra Leone, which lasted from 1991 until 2002.

Some of the worst crimes were committed by child soldiers who were drugged to desensitise them.

Mr Taylor is the first African leader to be tried by an international court.

He told the court on Tuesday he had wanted to bring peace to Liberia's West African neighbour.

He denied being involved in atrocities committed by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels during the civil war.

"I am not guilty of these charges, not even a minute part of these charges," he said. "This whole case is a case of deceit, deception and lies."

Prosecutors have called 91 witnesses in pressing their case that Mr Taylor provided arms, money and support to Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for diamonds.

Mr Taylor is the first of 249 witnesses the defence has said it may call.

The trial was moved to the Netherlands from Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, amid fears it could create instability there and in neighbouring Liberia.

A verdict in the case is expected in 2010.



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