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Former Liberian president boycotts his war crimes trial

By Faith Karimi, CNN
Charles Taylor, shown in court on February 8, is the first African ruler to appear before a war crimes tribunal.
Charles Taylor, shown in court on February 8, is the first African ruler to appear before a war crimes tribunal.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Charles Taylor is the first African head of state to appear before an international war crimes tribunal
  • He is accused of fueling a bloody civil war in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone
  • "He indicated he was deeply upset and needed to rest," a court spokesman says of the boycott
  • Taylor has pleaded not guilty to charges that include crimes against humanity

(CNN) -- Former Liberian President Charles Taylor boycotted his war crimes trial again Wednesday after judges rejected a delayed summary from his defense team, a court official said.

Taylor is the first African ruler to appear before an international war crimes tribunal. He is accused of fueling a bloody civil war in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone that led to widespread murder, rapes and mutilation.

The former president has pleaded not guilty to charges that include crimes against humanity and war crimes.

His lawyers first walked out Tuesday after a tribunal declined to accept their trial summary because it was filed after a January 14 deadline, a court spokesman said.

His defense team walked out first, then Taylor refused to return to the courtroom after a break, said Solomon Moriba, a spokesman for The Hague court in the Netherlands.

"He indicated he was deeply upset and needed to rest," Moriba said.

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RELATED TOPICS
  • Charles Taylor
  • Liberia

Taylor did not attend the proceedings again Wednesday, and the judge has adjourned the case until Friday, the spokesman said.

The boycott comes as prosecutors prepared to present their closing arguments. The verdict is expected this summer, Moriba said.

Taylor is on trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. United Nations officials and the Sierra Leone government jointly set up a special tribunal to try those who played the biggest role in the atrocities.

Prosecutors allege that Taylor, who was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, fueled the lengthy civil war, which killed tens of thousands, using riches from a diamond trade. The so-called blood diamonds are mined in war zones to support rebels and warlords. Blood diamonds have fueled bloody conflicts in Africa for more than a decade.

The trial has included testimony from supermodel Naomi Campbell, who said that Taylor gave her "dirty-looking" uncut diamonds as a gift. Prosecutors were hoping her testimony would tie him to blood diamonds.

Last year, Washington said it expedited a $4.5 million grant because the court was facing a financial crisis. The U.S. urged the international community to donate to the court before its financial resources run out.

If found guilty, Taylor will be sent to a prison in Britain, the spokesman said.

 
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