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Liberia Ex-President Charles Taylor Sentenced To 50 Years In Prison
 
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30-May-2012  
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Liberia's ex-President Charles Taylor has been sentenced to 50 years in jail for by a UN-backed war crimes court.

Last month Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war.

The prosecution at the Special Court for Sierra Leone wanted an 80-year prison term, which the defence said was excessive.

Taylor, 64, insists he is innocent and is likely to appeal the sentence, correspondents say.

The appeal process could last up to six months, the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague reports.
'Savage crimes'

During the sentencing, Judge Richard Lussick said the crimes in Sierra Leone were the most heinous in human history.

In its landmark ruling in April, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found Taylor guilty on 11 counts, relating to atrocities that included rape and murder.

He became the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of Nazis after World War II.In response, Taylor accused the prosecution of paying and threatening witnesses in his war crimes trial.

He also told the judges to consider his age when making their decision, saying he was "no threat to society".

And he condemned atrocities across the world, and had the "deepest sympathy" for victims in Sierra Leone, but stopped short of expressing remorse or apologising for his part in the conflict.

The prosecutors have said that Taylor's ill health and age, or the fact that he has a family, should have no impact on the sentence.

In written filings, prosecutors said a sentence of 80 years would reflect the severity of the crimes and the central role that Taylor had in facilitating them.

"The purposely cruel and savage crimes committed included public executions and amputations of civilians, the display of decapitated heads at checkpoints... public rapes of women and girls, and people burned alive in their homes," wrote prosecutor Brenda Hollis.

But defence lawyers said the recommended sentence was "manifestly disproportionate and excessive", and that Taylor had only been found guilty of an indirect role - aiding the rebels, rather than leading them.

They said their client should not be made to shoulder the blame alone for what happened in Sierra Leone's war.

The court should not support "attempts by the prosecution to provide the Sierra Leoneans with this external bogey man upon whom can be heaped the collective guilt of a nation for its predominantly self-inflicted wounds", his lawyers wrote.

During the Sierra Leone civil war, Taylor supported Revolutionary United Front rebels who killed tens of thousands of people.

The war crimes included murder, rape, the use of child soldiers and the amputation of limbs.

Taylor was accused of channelling weapons to them in return for "blood diamonds" but the judge said the prosecution had failed to prove their case that he had been one of the RUF leaders.

The case is being heard in The Hague for fear that a trial in Sierra Leone could destabilise the region. The Dutch government only agreed if Taylor would serve any sentence in another country, so he will serve any prison term in the UK.
 
 
 
Source: BBC
 
 

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