Taylor attends hearing

Taylor attends hearing

THE HAGUE – Former Liberian president Charles Taylor appeared in court yesterday for the first time since the start of his trial for atrocities committed during Sierra Leone’s bloody 10-year civil war.

Taylor did not explain his decision to attend the procedural hearing after earlier boycotting the trial. He was 20 minutes late and the only time he spoke was to plead not guilty to a slightly amended charge of sexual slavery, a crime against humanity, covering the abduction, rape and use as sex slaves of an unknown number of women and girls.Taylor has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges linked to the accusation that he controlled and armed rebels who murdered, raped, mutilated and enslaved civilians during Sierra Leone’s civil war, which ended in 2002.The trial started with a one-day hearing on June 4 and sat for a second day later that month.Taylor boycotted both sittings after firing his court-funded attorney and complaining he was not getting a fair trial.Presiding Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda adjourned the case after Taylor entered his plea yesterday and Taylor returned to his cell in a special wing of a Hague jail.The first prosecution witnesses had been due to be heard yesterday, but prosecutors and a court official responsible for ensuring Taylor gets a fair trial filed a motion last week asking for the witness testimony to be delayed until August to give Taylor’s new defense team – which has not yet been appointed – time to prepare.Explaining the decision to grant the postponement, Sebutinde blamed officials in the court’s registry for not appointing new defence attorneys in time for the trial to start and said Taylor ‘should not be penalised for the laxity of the registry’.She said that ordering an interim lawyer to defend Taylor for a week of hearings that had been scheduled to begin yesterday ‘would indeed amount to a violation of Taylor’s fair trial rights’.Taylor is being tried by a UN – backed Sierra Leonean court.Nampa-APHe was 20 minutes late and the only time he spoke was to plead not guilty to a slightly amended charge of sexual slavery, a crime against humanity, covering the abduction, rape and use as sex slaves of an unknown number of women and girls.Taylor has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges linked to the accusation that he controlled and armed rebels who murdered, raped, mutilated and enslaved civilians during Sierra Leone’s civil war, which ended in 2002.The trial started with a one-day hearing on June 4 and sat for a second day later that month.Taylor boycotted both sittings after firing his court-funded attorney and complaining he was not getting a fair trial.Presiding Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda adjourned the case after Taylor entered his plea yesterday and Taylor returned to his cell in a special wing of a Hague jail.The first prosecution witnesses had been due to be heard yesterday, but prosecutors and a court official responsible for ensuring Taylor gets a fair trial filed a motion last week asking for the witness testimony to be delayed until August to give Taylor’s new defense team – which has not yet been appointed – time to prepare.Explaining the decision to grant the postponement, Sebutinde blamed officials in the court’s registry for not appointing new defence attorneys in time for the trial to start and said Taylor ‘should not be penalised for the laxity of the registry’.She said that ordering an interim lawyer to defend Taylor for a week of hearings that had been scheduled to begin yesterday ‘would indeed amount to a violation of Taylor’s fair trial rights’.Taylor is being tried by a UN – backed Sierra Leonean court.Nampa-AP

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