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Charles Taylor 'duped' by Nigeria

File photo of Charles Taylor on trial in the Hague, 14 July 2009
Charles Taylor has denied the charges against him

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has said he was duped by Nigeria into being arrested there in 2006.

Speaking at his war crimes trial in The Hague, he said Nigeria's then-leader had reneged on a promise to let him leave the country freely.

He also claimed a plot involving the UK and the US led to his indictment.

Mr Taylor is accused of backing rebels, who committed widespread atrocities throughout the 1990s in Liberia's neighbour Sierra Leone.

He was living in exile in Nigeria in 2006 when US pressure to put him on trial for alleged war crimes increased.

Mr Taylor now says the president of Nigeria at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo - who is currently a United Nations peace envoy - told him lies that caused him to be arrested.

Mysterious affair

The former Liberian leader told the Special Court for Sierra Leone on Tuesday that Mr Obasanjo had earlier assured him he could leave the country freely.

"He lied to the world when he said I was escaping, and he knew nothing about it," he said.

"Why he lied? I don't know, but as a brother and a friend, I think he ought to speak and tell the truth about it."

TAYLOR TIMELINE
Map
1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia
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

Mr Taylor's arrest was a dramatic and mysterious affair.

After Mr Obasanjo said Liberia's new government was free to take Mr Taylor into custody, the former Liberian leader suddenly disappeared while Mr Obasanjo was on his way to Washington to meet his US counterpart, George W Bush.

Then, equally suddenly, the Nigerians announced that they had arrested Mr Taylor for trying to escape.

He was captured, allegedly with huge sacks of cash, on the border with Cameroon - some 1,000km (600 miles) from the southern town of Calabar, where he had been living in exile.

Mr Taylor had been given asylum in Nigeria as part of a deal to end Liberia's civil war, though human rights groups accused him of breaking the terms of the deal by continuing to interfere in Liberian politics.

On Tuesday, he said he hoped he would live to look Mr Obasanjo in the face one day and ask him to tell the truth about what happened.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan says Mr Taylor appeared defiant on what was the final day of his testimony in The Hague.

He claimed he was a victim of an intelligence plot involving the British and US governments that supplied weapons to the region in an attempt to topple him - as part of a plan by Washington to gain control of West African oil reserves.

The US position was that "we cannot have anyone in Liberia that we don't think is going to dance to our tune", he said.

He also said he was a peace broker and repeated denials that he had supplied arms to Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for blood diamonds.

The prosecution, which will now cross-examine Mr Taylor, says it will challenge the accuracy, truthfulness and completeness of his testimony.



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