The war criminal and former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, accused the international court that convicted him of crimes against humanity of being manipulated by the West, and said prosecutors had paid witnesses to testify against him.
Appearing in court at The Hague for a pre-sentencing hearing, Taylor claimed that witnesses at the trial had been "paid, coerced, and in many cases threatened with prosecution if they did not co-operate".
Taylor, who is due to be sentenced on 30 May, was convicted last month at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Judges found him guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and conscripting child soldiers. They found he had helped rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone continue their rampage during the West African nation's decade-long civil war, which ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead.
Taylor expressed sadness for the victims of the civil war and said he sympathised with their families. But he did not apologise or express any remorse. He said his actions were carried out with the aim of bringing stability to Liberia.
"I express my sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone," he said. "What I did... was done with honour. I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward."
The defence attorney, Courtenay Griffiths, argued for leniency on the basis that Taylor was found guilty only of aiding the rebels, not leading them, as prosecutors had originally charged. He said the lesson of the trial is that "if you are a small, weak nation, you may be subject to the full force of international law, whereas if you run a powerful nation you have nothing to fear".
But prosecutors argued that the severity of Taylor's crimes did not warrant leniency, and are demanding an 80-year prison sentence.
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