Charles Taylor`s lawyer storms out of court

The former Liberian President Charles Taylor`s war crimes trial is in its last phase.

Leidschendam: Charles Taylor`s lawyer stormed out of court Tuesday after judges refused to accept a written summary of the former Liberian president`s defense case at the end of his war crimes trial.

British attorney 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 percent 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 R.S.V.P. at the last minute," Hollis said. "He is the accused at a criminal proceeding."

Taylor himself remained in court as 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 defense case, because it was filed 20 days after their Jan. 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 innocent 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.
Taylor however, in months testifying on his own behalf, cast himself as a statesman who tried to pacify Western Africa.

Taylor boycotted the opening of his trial in June 2007 and fired his defense team, saying he had not had enough time to prepare his defense. The trial got under way again six months later with the first witness.

"We have seen this attempt at manipulation of the proceedings at the beginning and now we are seeing it at the end," Hollis said.

Bureau Report