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Charles Taylor's defense to counter prosecutor sentencing recommendation

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:05 AM EDT, Thu May 10, 2012
Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor is escorted at the Freetown, Sierra Leone, airport on his way to the Netherlands in 2006.
Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor is escorted at the Freetown, Sierra Leone, airport on his way to the Netherlands in 2006.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The former Liberian president was convicted of war crimes
  • Prosecutors say he deserves an 80-year sentence for the conviction
  • Taylor aided fighters in a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone

(CNN) -- The defense for Charles Taylor is expected to submit its counter-recommendation Thursday after prosecutors said the former Liberian president deserves an 80-year sentence for a war crimes conviction.

Taylor was found guilty last month of aiding and abetting war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone's civil war.

"Should the trial chamber decide to impose a global sentence, 80 years' imprisonment would be appropriate," said Brenda Hollis, chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In the statement last week, the prosecutor said the sentence reflects the gravity of the crimes.

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"But for Charles Taylor's criminal conduct, thousands of people would not have had limbs amputated, would not have been raped, would not have been killed," Hollis said. "The recommended sentence provides fair and adequate response to the outrage these crimes caused in victims, their families and relatives."

Last month's landmark ruling by the international tribunal was the first war crimes conviction of a former head of state by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War II.

Taylor, 64, was found guilty of all 11 counts of aiding and abetting rebel forces in a campaign of terror that involved murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting children younger than 15 and mining diamonds to pay for guns.

Prosecutors accused Taylor of financing and giving orders to rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war that ultimately left 50,000 dead or missing. His support for the rebels fueled the bloody war, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors, however, failed to prove that he had direct command over the rebels who committed the atrocities.

There is no death penalty in international criminal law, and he would serve out any sentence in a British prison.

Taylor has been a pivotal figure in Liberian politics for decades, and was forced out of office under international pressure in 2003. He fled to Nigeria, where border guards arrested him three years later as he was attempting to cross into Chad.

His trial was at the special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. U.N. officials and the Sierra Leone government jointly set up the tribunal to try those who played the biggest role in the atrocities. The court was moved from Sierra Leone, where emotions about the civil war still run high.

Taylor becomes the first former head of state since Adm. Karl Doenitz, who became president of Germany briefly after Adolf Hitler's suicide, to be convicted of war crimes or crimes against humanity by an international tribunal.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was tried by an international tribunal, but died before a judgment was issued.

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