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Charles Taylor Trial Starts for War Crimes & Cannibalism !

Pulling the microphone toward him, the dapper 61-year-old man in sunglasses creased his forehead, cleared his throat emphatically and introduced himself to the war-crimes court in the Hague: "My name is Dakpenah Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor, the 21st President of the Republic of Liberia."

Thus began the testimony of Charles Taylor, the reviled warlord and ousted Liberian President, at his landmark trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is facing 11 charges relating to the murder, rape, sexual slavery and mutilation of civilians by rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone — or, as the prosecution put it, he's charged with being "everything from terrorist to rapist." Asked to respond to the charges, Taylor issued a forceful denial. "It is very, very, very unfortunate that the prosecution's disinformation, misinformation, lies and rumors would associate me with such titles," he said. (See pictures of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.)
lagos..Port-Harcourt..Abuja..Kaduna.. Owerri..Edo.. AkwaIbom..Ibadan..Enugu

Taylor took the stand on July 14 at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for the first time since his trial began 18 months ago. He is accused of arming, training and controlling Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, who rampaged across the country during its brutal 1991-2001 civil war. Prosecutors allege that Taylor targeted Sierra Leone so he could strip it of its vast mineral wealth, in particular its diamonds. Earlier in the trial, chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp insisted that Taylor was "an exceptional violator of human rights" who steadily provided weapons and support to the RUF in exchange for blood diamonds. Witnesses testified about arms smuggled from Liberia to Sierra Leone in sacks of rice and diamonds sent back in a mayonnaise jar. But Taylor rebutted the claims. "Never, ever did I receive — whether it is [in] mayonnaise or coffee or whatever jar — any diamonds from the RUF," he said. "It is a lie, a diabolical lie."

However, it is the stories of Taylor's sheer brutality that are likely to be the most damning testimony. As many as 250,000 people were killed in the blood-soaked conflict that embroiled Sierra Leone and Liberia, even spreading into Ivory Coast and Guinea. During the course of the trial, the court — sitting in the Hague for fear of stirring up fresh unrest in Sierra Leone and Liberia — was told about how RUF rebels enslaved and mutilated thousands of civilians, who had their hands and arms severed. Some of the worst crimes were carried out by gangs of child soldiers, who were fed drugs to desensitize them to the horror of their actions.

The slang Short sleeve or long sleeve used in the movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo Di Capri and Djimon housou graphically and literally puns the amputation of arms either below the elbow (short sleeve) or above the wrist (long Sleeve) The blood, is plentiful. People about to lose limbs are asked if they want "short sleeve" or "long sleeve." Child soldiers carrying automatic weapons, fire into crowds. There is death, and then more death. All of those interviewed agreed that the film was an accurate portrayal of the violence.

And there were tales of even more grotesque violence, including how opponents and peacekeeping forces were killed, cooked and eaten by Taylor's militia. Last year, the alleged head of Taylor's "Death Squad," Joseph (Zigzag) Marzah, told the court that cannibalism was practiced "to set an example for people to be afraid" and that nothing was done without Taylor's approval. Marzah also revealed that he and Taylor belonged to the same secret religious society and had together eaten human hearts.

As the charges were laid before him on Tuesday, Taylor, the first African leader to be tried before an international tribunal for war crimes, responded with indignant protestations. "I am a father of 14 children, grandchildren, have fought all my life to do what I thought was right in the interests of justice and fair play," he said. "I resent that characterization of me. It is false, it is malicious."

His lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, had earlier denied that Taylor was an "African Napoleon bent on taking over the subregion," saying instead that he was a "broker of peace." Griffiths does not dispute the horrors of the war but says Taylor was not the heart of darkness directing it. "The case is all about linking the crimes to Mr. Taylor, but the evidence has been riddled with inconsistencies," he said. (Read "Charles Taylor Trial Starts.")

Taylor launched a Libyan-funded armed uprising in Liberia in 1989. The ensuing civil war lasted until 1996, and Taylor was elected President the following year. He ruled for six years before heading into exile in Calabar Cross river State, where he was eventually arrested. Taylor was sent to the Hague in June 2006, but the trial covers only his role in Sierra Leone.

Taylor's testimony is expected to last six to eight weeks, and a final verdict in the case is likely a year off. If convicted, he would serve his jail sentence — he's facing life imprisonment — in Britain. But even if he is acquitted, it doesn't mean his worries are over. Last week, the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report on the 1989-2003 civil wars. It has a list of eight warlords whom it wants brought to trial for crimes against humanity — and Taylor is on that list.

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Comment by Afam on July 21, 2009 at 2:03pm
Saints and sinners, episode 4 part 1 seen 9
Comment by Mandy Nezi on July 21, 2009 at 11:57am
pls if taylor is convicted he should serve his jail sentence here in Nigeria prison not britain, cos he will be too confortable in Britain prison. i belive naija prison will be better for a DEVIL of his type.
Comment by tosin love on July 21, 2009 at 11:32am
this guy is an animal,he is not a hunman,he his heartless
Comment by Inegbenijie Oziegbe on July 21, 2009 at 10:52am
This guy is funny...................................
Comment by 9jabook.com on July 21, 2009 at 8:00am


Aside from his opening remarks, which directly addressed the charges against him, Mr Taylor's first day on the stand offered up a bizarre mix of childhood reminiscences and African history lessons.

He stressed his humble origins, the child of a sugar cane farmer who grew up in a mud house without running water, waking up with the crow of the rooster and running barefoot to school. Educating himself was his main goal, he said. He won scholarships to schools in Liberia and then decided to go to university in the US.

"I was dating a girl and this old friend of mine came back from the US, and took my girl from me. And I said 'Oh my God'... That really pushed me," he recounted.

There were rants against Washington for not doing enough for Liberia in the 150 years since the country was founded by freed slaves shipped back to west Africa from the US.

But he contradicted that later when he passionately argued that Africans should solve their own problems and not be subjected to Westerners telling people what to do.

With the defendant having to spell out many of the Liberian names, the courtroom felt like a spelling bee at times – "I'm not sure I got that one right," Mr Taylor said. Keeping a handle on the cast of characters included in his lengthy narrative also proved difficult on occasion: he drew a blank on the name of his paternal grandmother.

Only for one brief moment did he appear overcome – when he testified about how the US had forced him out of office and how former Liberian allies turned against him. Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president who offered him exile in 2003 before allowing his arrest in 2006, was singled out with venom. Asked what he would do, if he found himself in a closed room with him now, Mr Taylor said: "You would see two presidents in a little tussle... I'm damned angry."

A verdict in the case is not expected until next year. But campaigners hope the trial will send a powerful message to other leaders around the world that they cannot act with impunity.




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