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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 15:12 GMT
Dutch arms trade sentence quashed
Guus van Kouwenhoven
Kouwenhoven went from importing cars to trading timber rights
A Dutch appeals court has acquitted a businessman who had been convicted of selling weapons to former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

The court argued that there had been insufficient evidence for a conviction, annulling Dutch timber trader Guus Kouwenhoven's eight-year sentence.

He had been convicted in 2006 of trading weapons for logging rights in Liberia, breaking a UN arms embargo.

Mr Kouwenhoven, an associate of Mr Taylor's, denied the charges.

Civil war

The appeal court criticised the prosecutors' investigation, saying they had not sufficiently verified witness statements.

"The suspect must be acquitted of these deeds because of far-reaching lack of reliable evidence on which to base a conviction," the judges said.

Mr Kouwenhoven was president of the Oriental Trading Corporation between 2000 and 2003, when the arms smuggling allegedly took place.

Prosecutors had appealed for a tougher sentence and wanted an additional conviction for war crimes.

He was a close associate of Charles Taylor, who is now on trial in The Hague at a UN-backed court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Mr Taylor is accused of backing militias in Sierra Leone that murdered, raped and tortured civilians during the country's civil war from 1991 to 2001.

Mr Taylor gave evidence last month in a closed session of Mr Kouwenhoven's trial.



SEE ALSO
Profile: Guus van Kouwenhoven
10 Mar 08 |  Africa
Dutchman on Liberia war charges
21 Mar 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Liberia
19 Feb 05 |  Country profiles



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