Liberia's Taylor takes stand to deny war crimes

Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:51am GMT

By Reed Stevenson

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Liberia's former President Charles Taylor, the first African ruler to stand trial for war crimes, took the stand in his own defence on Tuesday, arguing that the case against him was full of misinformation and lies.

Taylor, 61, is charged with 11 counts of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscripting child soldiers during the intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in which more than 250,000 people were killed.

"I am not guilty of all these charges," Taylor told the three judges at Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Prosecutors, who closed their case in February, say Taylor directed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in a campaign of terror against civilians, seeking to control neighbouring Sierra Leone's diamond mines and destabilise its government to boost his regional influence.

"It is quite incredible that such descriptions of me would come about," Taylor responded after his lawyer asked whether he was a terrorist. "The prosecution, because of disinformation, misinformation, lies, rumours, would associate me with such titles or descriptions."

Taylor's defence began their case this week, two years after the start of the trial.

"I am a father of 14 children, grandchildren, with love for humanity and have fought all my life to do what I thought was right. I resent that characterisation of me. It is false, it is malicious."

ATROCITIES   Continued...

<p>Former Liberian President Charles Taylor in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court&nbsp;(ICC) prior to&nbsp;the beginning of his defence case, July 13, 2009. Robin van Lonkhuijsen/United Photos/Pool</p>
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