Verdict in Charles Taylor Trial Due Thursday

Posted April 25th, 2012 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
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A U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal is set to hand down a verdict Thursday in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone charged Mr. Taylor with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of international law for his alleged support of rebels during Sierra Leone's civil war.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Mr. Taylor's four-year trial took place in The Hague because of fears that trying him in Sierra Leone would spark regional violence.

The former president is accused of arming and assisting the rebel Revolutionary United Front in exchange for “blood diamonds” mined in eastern Sierra Leone.

He is specifically charged with being responsible for acts of murder, rape, terrorism, recruitment of child soldiers, and enslavement.

An estimated half-million people were killed during Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002.

Mr. Taylor was elected president of Liberia in 1997 after leading a rebel force during that country's civil war. International pressure forced him to resign in 2003 and accept exile in Nigeria, after his indictment by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

He was arrested and delivered to the court in 2006, after being extradited back to Liberia.

During the trial, the court heard testimony from 94 prosecution witnesses and 21 defense witnesses, including Mr. Taylor.

The tribunal was established to try the most serious cases of war crimes rising from the Sierra Leone conflict. The Taylor case is expected to be the court's last major trial.