Africa

Charles Taylor war crimes trial extended in The Hague

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 Liberia's former President Charles Taylor has been extended after judges said they would decide on a defence appeal.

Friday was due to be the last day of the trial, which began in 2007.

But defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths stormed out of court this week after judges refused to accept the late submission of a document.

Mr Taylor denies 11 counts - including murder, rape, and using child soldiers during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

He is accused of arming and controlling the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels 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.

Mr Taylor also boycotted the opening of his trial in June 2007, arguing he would not get a fair hearing.

'Blood diamonds'

Mr Griffiths was in court on Friday but Mr Taylor was not.

Mr Taylor and his lawyers were upset at the court's refusal to accept a 500-page written summary of the trial that was submitted late.

"What we were trying to do is ensure we get some semblance of justice out of this and it's turned into this personalised attack on us," Mr Griffiths told reporters outside the court on Wednesday. "I find it totally despicable."

The defence team has now been granted leave to appeal.

The BBC's Peter Biles in The Hague says after that appeal has been heard - perhaps within the next two weeks - the defence will still need to discuss whether it will be allowed to present closing oral arguments.

The separate issue over the apology demanded by the judges from Mr Griffiths is potentially a disciplinary matter and has been deferred until 25 February, he says.

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.

The judges are expected to deliver a verdict later in the year.

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

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