Charles Taylor trial adjourned after boycott

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor in court on 8 February 2011
Image caption Charles Taylor is accused of selling "blood diamonds" from Sierra Leone

The war crimes trial of ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor has been adjourned until Friday after he failed to attend the court in The Hague.

He and his lawyer walked out of proceedings on Tuesday during the closing arguments of the trial.

The court has directed the lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, to attend court on Friday and apologise for his behaviour.

Mr Taylor denies fuelling Sierra Leone's civil war in the 1990s by arming rebels.

He is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The trial started in June 2007, with Mr Taylor boycotting the opening, arguing he would not get a fair trial.

The prosecution has finished its oral submission and the defence was due to start its arguments. The verdict is expected later this year.


When proceedings resumed on Wednesday morning, the presiding judge said she had received a document stating that Mr Taylor had waived his right to be in court, thus confirming that there was no medical issue involved.

Mr Taylor's lawyer Courtenay Griffiths also failed to make an appearance.

He had walked out in anger on Tuesday after the court refused to accept his final written brief to the court 20 days after the deadline.

Mr Griffiths has already told the BBC he does not intend to be in court again if the judges refuse to accept his final trial brief.

"If the appeals chamber take the view that the judges acted perfectly reasonably in refusing to accept our final brief then effectively I have no further role in these proceedings," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He denied that it was a delaying tactic.

"I've no interest in stretching this trial out, neither does Mr Taylor - that man has been in custody for almost six years and he wants a decision on his fate," he said.

Later on Wednesday, the Special Court for Sierra Leone directed Mr Griffiths to attend court on Friday.

The court warned that unless he apologised for his behaviour in court on 8 February the trial chamber might impose sanctions. This means his fees could be docked, or in extreme, he could no longer represent Mr Taylor, says the BBC's Eleanor Montague in The Hague.

The prosecution says Mr Taylor, Liberian president from 1997-2003, armed and controlled the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during a 10-year campaign of terror conducted largely against civilians.

The RUF became infamous for hacking off the limbs of their victims, and using rape and murder to terrorise the population.

Celebrity testimony

The defence has argued that Mr Taylor tried to broker peace in Sierra Leone at the request of regional powers.

He is accused of selling "blood diamonds" for the rebels, in return for supplying them with weapons.

Last year supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Mia Farrow were summoned to give evidence at the trial.

The prosecution was trying to establish a link between Mr Taylor and a number of uncut diamonds that Miss Campbell said she had been given in South Africa in 1997.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague has heard from more than 100 witnesses in what is the first international trial of an African former head of state.

If convicted, Mr Taylor would serve a prison sentence in the UK.

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