Charles Taylor: Warlord and showman

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Charles Taylor may be a former warlord but he also has a reputation as a flamboyant showman.

He was once asked in a BBC interview why some people thought he was little better than a murderer.

He shot back: "Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time."

In 1980 Taylor joined the regime of Master Sergeant Samuel Doe in Liberia, but the two men fell out and he fled back to the US, where he had studied.

He apparently escaped from a prison in Massachusetts by sawing through the bars, and returned to Liberia to wage war on Doe.

Prosecutors at the Hague say he was trained in Libya by representatives of the government of Colonel Gaddafi.

He is said to have formed or helped to form the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), beginning attacks in Liberia in the late 80s.

Taylor is accused of being allied with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

The RUF was responsible for widespread atrocities during Sierra Leone's civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002.

The rebel soldiers, including children, were notorious for hacking off hands and limbs.

Prosecutors say the RUF paid Taylor using "blood diamonds" from mines under their control, and he paid them back with guns and weapons.

After winning power in Liberia militarily, he won elections in 1997 and became president.

But after yet more bloodshed he was forced to step down in 2003 and fled to Nigeria.

He was arrested three years later on the Nigeria-Cameroon border in a disguised diplomatic car which was allegedly full of cash.

Taylor, 62, now denies 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The charges include murder, rape and sexual slavery, and using child soldiers.

Taylor is accused of being criminally responsible for countless atrocities in which innocent victims were shot, hacked and burned to death, and subjected to horrific acts of sexual violence.