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Last Updated: Monday, 21 March 2005, 23:05 GMT
Dutchman on Liberia war charges
Child soldier in Liberia
Liberia was wracked by civil war for most of the 1990s
A Dutch lumber merchant has been arrested and charged with war crimes, accused of murders and arms smuggling during Liberia's civil war.

Guus van Kouwenhoven, 62, allegedly ran militias in the west African country and funnelled weapons to the regime of deposed dictator Charles Taylor.

Mr Taylor was barred from buying weapons before his fall in 2003.

Mr van Kouwenhoven is the second Dutch businessman to be charged with war crimes in the past week.

He was linked to Liberia by United Nations reports and testimony from NGOs working in the country.

Van Kouwenhoven was a key player in instability in Liberia and Sierra Leone
Global Witness
Last week Frans van Anraat was accused of selling Iraq chemicals used to manufacture poison gas used against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988.

According to a UN report submitted to The Hague, Mr van Kouwenhoven formed part of Charles Taylor's "inner circle".

"Militias formed by the Dutchman's timber companies are alleged to have participated in massacres of civilians where even babies were not spared," a prosecution statement said.

"The weapons used by the militias to commit these war crimes are alleged to have been supplied by the Dutchman."

Rebellion

Mr van Kouwenhoven was arrested on Friday after raids in Rotterdam and Paris, police said.

His name was not officially released, but was widely reported by Dutch media and publicly identified by UN and NGO reports.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor
Charles Taylor was a flamboyant and controversial figure
British human rights group Global Witness campaigned against Oriental Timber Trading, Mr van Kouwenhoven's company.

"Van Kouwenhoven has been a key player in the regional instability in Liberia and Sierra Leone," said a spokesman, Alex Yearsley.

"It is fantastic that the Dutch have been able to gather enough evidence to make the arrest."

Charles Taylor launched a rebellion in Liberia in 1989, before being elected president in 1997.

He soon faced accusations of diamond smuggling and arms dealing and was linked to instability in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

From 1999 Liberia again descended into civil war as rebels mounted a campaign to oust the president, who went into exile in 2003.


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