Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Taylor trial delayed until 2008

The court trying ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes has postponed the case until January 2008.

His defence team had asked for a delay until 7 January saying it needed more time to evaluate new evidence

Charles Taylor is the first former African head of state to face an international war crimes court.

He is accused of responsibility for atrocities committed by rebels during the war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Mr Taylor's lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, said he had discovered an archive of the former president's papers packed into 20 boxes.

"Already we've encountered personal letters, or a personal letter, from former President Jimmy Carter to President Taylor," Mr Griffiths told the BBC.

"If that's the sort of material that's in there it could be vital," he said.

Mr Griffiths was only appointed to the case a few weeks ago while the prosecution have had several years to build their case.

The prosecution had also supported the move to delay the proceedings.

'Good spirits'

Despite delays in the past - often due to Mr Taylor's insistence that he have a senior lawyer represent him - Mr Griffiths said that Mr Taylor is keen for the trial to start.

"When last I saw him he was in good spirits," Mr Griffiths told the BBC's correspondent Mark Doyle.

"He's anxious to have this case come on as soon as possible because he's confident that it will soon be demonstrated that this particular prosecution is based on very shaky ground indeed."

Mr Taylor is accused of responsibility for the actions of rebels during the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone.

That includes, among other crimes, unlawful killings, sexual slavery, use of child soldiers and looting.

Mr Taylor has pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Our correspondent says that the main issue in the trial will not be so much whether these crimes were committed but whether the prosecution can prove that Mr Taylor was responsible for them.

The trial began on 4 June.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Taylor trial delayed until 2008