Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

African warlord Charles Taylor faces war crimes trial

Liberia's former President Charles Taylor, the first African ruler to stand trial for war crimes, took the stand in his own defense on Tuesday, arguing that the case against him was full of misinformation and lies.

The 61-year-old has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Here are some facts about Taylor:


* Prosecutors from the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone have said Taylor sought to control neighboring Sierra Leone's diamond mines and destabilize its government to boost his regional influence. They say he directed the Revolutionary United Front rebels in a campaign of terror against civilians.

* The Special Court indicted Taylor in June 2003 on 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the war in Sierra Leone but condensed the charges to 11 counts in 2006 to ensure a focused trial. He has pleaded not guilty to them all.

* The charges included acts of terrorism, murder, rape, enslavement, conscripting child soldiers, sexual slavery, pillage and outrages upon personal dignity.

* Taylor was moved to The Hague in June 2006 due to fears a trial in Freetown could spur unrest in Sierra Leone or Liberia. If convicted, he would serve his jail sentence in Britain.

* A defense lawyer for Taylor said last April there was no evidence he planned and instigated atrocities in Sierra Leone and asked the war crimes court to acquit him of all charges. The prosecution closed its case against Taylor on February 27 after 91 witnesses were presented.


* Taylor was born in January 1948 to a family of Americo-Liberians -- a small but traditionally powerful group descended from the freed slaves who founded the West African country of Liberia in the 19th century.

* A Christian who studied in the United States and enjoyed tennis, Taylor's trademark outfit was a white suit with a cane.

* Taylor worked for Liberian President Samuel Doe running the General Services Agency, a position that gave him control of much of Liberia's budget. Doe accused him in 1983 of embezzling almost $1 million and Taylor fled to the United States.

* Jailed by US authorities for embezzlement, Taylor escaped from his Massachusetts cell in 1985 after a year. He resurfaced in Ivory Coast and launched a rebellion in 1989 to topple Doe.

* The Liberian war ended in 1996 with 200,000 dead. Taylor became president after a campaign memorable for the macabre unofficial anthem: "You killed my ma, you killed my pa. I'll vote for you."

* But Taylor's foes rose again and, under US pressure, he stepped down and handed over the country to former Vice President Moses Blah. Taylor accepted asylum in Nigeria as part of a peace plan.

* Taylor was known simply as "Pappy" by a generation of child soldiers who went into battle on a cocktail of marijuana and amphetamines and were led by self-appointed generals with names such as "Peanut Butter," "Bad Boy" and "Butt Naked."