FREETOWN (Reuters) - Police in Sierra Leone have arrested an investigator employed by former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s defence team on charges he attempted to bribe prosecution witnesses to recant their testimony during Taylor’s war crimes trial.
A United Nations-backed court in April convicted Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role supporting rebels during Sierra Leone’s civil war, a conflict that killed more than 50,000 people. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison but is appealing his conviction.
Prince Taylor, who is not related to the former president, was arrested in the town of Bo on Saturday on an arrest warrant issued by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
“Four counts ... allege that Prince Taylor offered a bribe to a witness to recant testimony given before the court and four counts ... allege that he otherwise interfered with a witness to recant testimony,” a statement issued by the court on Saturday read.
Prince Taylor’s initial arraignment was due to take place in the capital Freetown on Monday. His lawyer declined to comment on the charges.
Charles Taylor’s conviction was the first time a head of state has been found guilty by an international tribunal since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg following the end of World War Two.
The court ruled that Taylor had received “blood diamonds” - as the stones from Sierra Leone’s conflict zones were known - in exchange for providing arms and ammunition to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.
The rebels often used drugged up child soldiers they had abducted from their families to commit atrocities including rape, enslavement, beheading, disembowelment and maiming.
The U.N.-backed court was established to try those deemed to bear “greatest responsibility” for crimes committed in the West African state’s civil war, which ended in 2002.
Reporting by Simon Akam; Editing by Joe Bavier and Andrew Osborn