The Hague, 8 January 2008 (FH) - A Canadian expert in the diamond trade, Ian Smilie, called by the prosecution of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL,) claimed that he met accused former Liberian President Charles Taylor twice, once being in the presidential office in Monrovia.

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The prosecution alleges Taylor of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone with the objective of seizing its diamond riches in return for arms for his rebel group.

Named, with other experts, by the United Nations to inquire into the links between the traffic of weapons and diamonds, and which led to a resolution prohibiting the diamond trade coming from Liberia, the first prosecution witness testified: "I had asked Taylor to explain to me how he could export so many diamonds from Liberia to Belgium? and he answered me: "It is highly probable that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF )has diamonds deals and that some passed through Liberia, but not officially.' ".

For the prosecution, the rebels of RUF provided diamonds to Taylor in exchange of weapons and ammunition.

From the very start of the civil war, in 1991, Freetown could no longer export its diamonds and thus they passed through Monrovia.

But in Antwerp in Belgium, where 90% of the diamonds were sold, more diamonds arrived only from Liberia, which, besides, does not have serious diamond resources.

Until the putting in place of the Kimberley process, in January 2003, in which the witness took part, the actors of the diamond industry maintained the secrecy on the source of the precious stones.

The expert cited his investigations into the traffic of weapons paid in thousands of carats.

He even named in the Court notorious traffickers: Tajik Victor Tajik, Ukrainian Leonid Minin, Kenyan of Indian origin Sanjivan Ruprah, and Mohammed Jamil Derbah, suspected by the United Nations of having links with Al-Qaida and Hezbollah, and who had become "the provider of weapons to Taylor and resold diamonds.''

Vainly Taylor's defence tried to reject this report as well as films showing victims conscripted by force by RUF to work in the mines.

"It is not a Hollywood movie. He will live without his hands, for the remainder of his days", pled the prosecutor Nicholas Koumjiam, about one of the protagonists in the films mutilated by the rebels.

Already before the trial, the defence had accused the prosecution of wanting to create sensationalism and estimated that the testimony of the victims of a war to which Taylor had not been involved and was not justified.

After the testimony of the expert, the prosecutor called his second witness, Alex Temba Teh, a pastor of the mining region of Kono.

The third witness, expected to testify on Friday, is an "insider" who would allegedly will expose how the former president in Sierra Leone provided weapons to the rebels.

The trial of Taylor, which began on 4 June 2007, had been deferred for seven months, after the defendant boycotted the opening, asking for time and resources.

© Hirondelle News Agency