Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Taylor's lawyer storms out of court

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (AP)

Charles Taylor's lawyer has stormed out of court after judges refused to accept a written summary of the former Liberian president's defence case at the end of his war crimes trial.

British lawyer Courtenay Griffiths ignored judges at the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone who ordered him to stay in court after unprecedented angry exchanges erupted before closing arguments in the three-year case.

"How will posterity judge the credibility of this court if, at this 11th hour, they prevented Mr Taylor from presenting ... 90% of his closing arguments?" Griffiths said outside court.

He said he refused to "lend legitimacy to proceedings" by staying.

But prosecutor Brenda Hollis argued that Taylor and his lawyers had no right to walk out. "The accused is not attending a social event. He may not RSVP at the last minute," Ms Hollis said. "He is the accused at a criminal proceeding."

Taylor himself remained in court as Ms Hollis began summing up the prosecution case.

On Monday, the three-judge panel issued a majority decision rejecting Taylor's final brief in which his lawyers summed up their defence case, because it was filed 20 days after their January 14 deadline.

Ugandan judge Julia Sebutinde dissented, warning that refusing to accept Taylor's brief, "is to deny him his fundamental right to defend himself".

Taylor, the first former African head of state to be tried by an international court, has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture and using child soldiers.

Prosecutors allege he armed and supported brutal rebels responsible for many of the worst atrocities of Sierra Leone's civil war, which left tens of thousands dead and many more mutilated after enemy fighters hacked off their limbs, noses or lips.

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