Prosecutors seek tougher warcrimes term for Liberia's Taylor

Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:42am EST
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By Thomas Escritt

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Prosecutors called for a stiffer sentence for former Liberian president Charles Taylor on Tuesday, telling war crimes judges he played a direct role in crimes against humanity during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

But Taylor's defense, which wants his conviction overturned, told the court hearing appeals from both sides that judges had erred in convicting Taylor last year because they failed to link him to criminal acts committed during the war and that crucial evidence against Taylor was no more than hearsay.

"There is nothing in the trial chamber's findings that would have allowed it to find that Charles Taylor knew that specific weapons or ammunition he had some role in providing would be used in a crime as opposed to a lawful purpose," Christopher Gosnell, a lawyer on Taylor's defense team, said on Tuesday.

Noting that there was no way of determining how the bullets would later be used, Gosnell said: "This was not a case of shipping a million machetes to Rwanda."

Taylor, 64, was sentenced to 50 years in prison last year on a conviction of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 11-year war in neighboring Sierra Leone, in which an estimated 50,000 people died by 2002.

The first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the trials of Nazis after World War Two, Taylor was nonetheless acquitted of either ordering or planning atrocities.

Prosecutors disagree. They told Tuesday's appeal hearing that Taylor's involvement went beyond helping the commission of crimes, saying that he should be convicted for the direct commission of war crimes and for instigating them.

They also asked for his prison sentence be raised to 80 years, which they had originally demanded in May 2012.   Continued...

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appears in court at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, western Netherlands, January 22, 2013. REUTERS/Peter Dejong/Pool