The Hague, February 8, 2011 (FH) - Prosecution delivered on Tuesday its closing speech in former Liberian President Charles Taylor trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). The hearing started with a dramatic turn of events, Defence lawyer Couternay Griffiths leaving the courtroom after reproaching the judges for rejecting his final written arguments the night before.

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The court ruled that the written arguments had to be presented before January 14, hence could no longer be accepted.

 «We have Mr Taylor's instructions to that effect. We feel it is our duty to withdraw", the lawyer said, adding he would appeal the decision.

"If Taylor thinks he can give orders to the court, he is wrong", judge Richard Lussik replied angrily. Prosecutor Brenda Hollis suggested that Charles Taylor should not be allowed to leave the courtroom with his lawyer, saying : "The accused is not attending a social event, he is not a VIP, he is in a criminal court".

The defendant had to stay in his box, but he did not come back after the first morning break.

Charles Taylor was indicted in 2003 with eleven charges including crimes against humanity and crimes of war committed in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002. According to the Prosecution, Taylor backed up the rebellion of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in order to take control of Sierra Leone's diamond mines. The Liberian warlord allegedly provided the RUF with weapons, ammunition, and communication tools in exchange for gems.

Delivering her closing speech, Brenda Hollis insisted on the witnesses "courage and implication". She added that Charles Taylor was an " intelligent, charismatic and manipulative"   person who  "carried out the crimes through his proxy", RUF rebels who signed their crimes by cutting their victims' hands and arms.

"Mr Taylor is facing you today because through his own will, his orders, his omissions, these crimes were committed", Brenda Hollis said. She added : "He is guilty beyond reasonable doubt".

Taylor was indicted in 2003 and arrested on March 29, 2006 in Nigeria and subsequently transferred to the Netherlands where he has been in custody since then. If he were to be convicted, he would serve his sentence in Great-Britain.

The SCSL was set up in 2002 jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to "try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996".

Thirteen indictments were issued by the Prosecutor in 2003. Four of the accused died before being tried, including the leader of the RUF, Foday Sankoh. Eight have been judged and sentenced to 15 to 52-year jail terms. The SCSL does not deliver death or life term-jail penalties.


© Hirondelle News Agency