Charles Taylor verdict: As it happened

Key points

  • Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, murder, rape and terrorism
  • He becomes the first former head of state convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremburg trials after World War II
  • He was convicted of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war, but was cleared of giving the orders
  • The court found there was a continuous supply of diamonds from the rebels to Taylor, often in exchange for arms and ammunition
  • He was tried by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in The Hague, in case the trial led to fresh instability in the region
  • All times are BST (GMT+1)

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    Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the verdict in the war crimes trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, who is accused of backing rebels in Sierra Leone. He denies the charges, but if found guilty, he would become the first former head of state convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremburg trials after World War II.


    So stay with us for the latest updates - the 11 charges he faces will be read out starting at 10:00, which could take up to two hours. We will have reaction from correspondents, analysis, and reaction from Sierra Leone, Liberia and around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.


    Charles Taylor first came to international prominence after an interview on New Year's Day 1989 on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme with its then editor Robin White, who reflects on their verbal sparring.

    Charles Taylor (L) and Robin White (R) in 2000

    The hearing at the court sitting in The Hague has now opened.


    Mr Taylor looks sombre, wearing a dark suit, as he listens to the opening statement of lead justice Judge Richard Lussick.

    Former Liberian President Charles Taylor takes notes as he waits for the start of a hearing to deliver verdict in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam

    Charles Taylor making notes in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.


    The judge starts to get a croaky throat after reading aloud for more than hour.


    The judge says that the prosecution has proved on various counts that the RUF rebels were responsible for killings, rapes and mutilations committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone, but is yet to say whether the court accepts that Charles Taylor can be linked to these crimes.

    Carter J. Draper @draperc

    All ears glued to radios in #LIBERIA as we wait to hear the final verdict of our former Pres. verdict #bbctaylor


    The judge says before the indictment period, the RUF leader Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor had met when they trained in Libya, but said the two worked independently of each other.


    The judge says the evidence shows that Charles Taylor advised on a RUF plan to recapture a diamond area in Sierra Leone in 1998 but there was not sufficient evidence to show he was aware of the conduct of the operation, named "No living thing".


    The judge says the accused gave financial support and military training to the RUF rebels.


    The judge says the accused provided a base for rebels in Monrovia - to facilitate transfer of arms to RUF and transfer diamonds, despite Mr Taylor's denials.


    The judge says the accused provided safe haven to RUF fighters after they retreated in 1996 but Mr Taylor was not found to have ordered their retreat.


    The court has found that some supplies to RUF came from Liberia through channels unrelated to the accused, Mr Taylor.


    It was also found the accused directly supplied arms to the RUF/ADRC and facilitated larger shipments through third countries, including Burkina Faso.


    The accused facilitated two large shipments of arms and ammunition in 1997. An intermediary was given diamonds and $90,000 to buy the weapons, the judge said.


    Judge Richard Lussick starts to get a croaky throat after reading aloud for more than an hour.


    Charles Taylor's chief of protocol went with rebel leader Sam Bockarie to Burkina Faso to buy weapons, the judge says. The shipment was "unprecedented in volume" and was instrumental in offensives in 1998 and 1999.


    The accused sent 20 fighters from Liberia to Sierra Leone who participated in attacks in which crimes were committed.

    Gabriel Goah \u200f @ggoah

    my office is at a standstill here in Monrovia. everyone listening to BBC for the Verdict #bbctaylor


    The judge says Liberian police detained two RUF deserters and handed them back to the Sierra Leonean rebels.


    The trial chamber found there was a continuous supply of diamonds from the RUF/AFRC to the accused, often in exchange for arms and ammunition.

    Tamba Siaffa via Facebook BBC Africa

    I am in the Nimba County area where Taylor has most of his supporters in Liberia. Many people are glued to their local radio station that is relaying the program. People are now getting afraid after listening to just few minutes. Tears could be seen in the eyes of a woman as she quitely listen to the judge.


    The judge says one-time RUF leader Fodaky Sankoh delivered diamonds to the accused in person - once after a trip he had made to South Africa.


    The judges have found that the accused facilitated a relationship between the RUF and a Belgian diamond dealer known as "Alpha Bravo".

    Ros Atkins @BBCRosAtkins

    It's like time has stopped here. 100s watching in silence. The emotion in the courtroom moves you the moment you enter #freetown #bbctaylor


    The judge says found Charles Taylor's relationship with RUF leaders helped in the Sierra Leone peace process, however there is strong evidence that while publicly taking part, he secretly tried to undermine the negotiations.


    Charles Taylor taps his fingers while listening to the judge, who has now been talking for one hour and 20 minutes.


    The accused advised RUF leader Isa Sesay to promise to disarm but "not do it in reality", the judge says.


    During the peace negotiations, Mr Taylor was secretly fuelling the conflict between the rebels and the government and supplying weapons to the rebels, the judge said.


    When Foday Sankoh was arrested in Nigeria, he ordered senior RUF official Sam Bockarie to take orders from the accused but there is no evidence this happened, the judge says.


    But the judge says there is no evidence the accused was part of the RUF command structure.


    Charles Taylor looks thoughtful, pressing his fingers to his lips, as the judgement reading continues.

    Roland Perry via Facebook BBC World Service

    It is my prayer that Our former leader will walk out of the Hague with flying colors. We are already erecting palm branches along the Roberts International Airport Highway to welcome Mr. Taylor back home.


    Despite evidence showing that Mr Taylor aided the RUF rebels, the judge says the accused was not part of the rebels' chain of command, so it is not clear how the verdict ruling will go.


    The judge says the chamber found the relationship between the RUF and the accused was much closer than Mr Taylor admitted.


    The accused was evasive in his testimony about what he knew about crimes committed in Sierra Leone, the judge said.


    The trial chamber found that the accused was aware of crimes committed by the RUF against civilians as early as August 1997, when he became president.


    The accused had substantial influence over the RUF but this fell short of effective command and control, the judge says.


    Foday Sankoh was the sole leader of the RUF and did not take orders from the accused, the judge said.


    The judge says the prosecution failed to prove that the accused was individually responsible for some of the crimes committed in Sierra Leone.


    The prosectuion has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was part of a joint criminal enterprise, the judge says.

    Ishmael Bayoh via Facebook BBC Africa

    I have my radio listening to the verdict via the bbc and also on the net monitoring the verdict. I am at the heart of the city center, freetown which suffered greatly from the operation no living stone in 1999. Freetown saw fire that day and can be rested today


    The chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused provided material help to the RUF, the judge says.


    Alex, a Charles Taylor supporter in Monrovia, tells the BBC World Service: "I have been waiting for the judges to show us a direct link from the rebels to Charles Taylor. Unfortunately, from what has been read out by the judge, it seems there hasn't been a direct link, it is only about proxies."

    Kelvin Brown
    Photograph from inside the special court in Freetown

    Photograph from inside the special court in #Freetown where victims are watching a live feed.


    The accused provided material support to the RUF for the commission of crimes, the judge says.

    Press room at The Hague

    Journalists in the press room at The Hague take notes as Judge Richard Lussick continues reading the verdict.


    The judge says he accused gave practical assistance and moral support and gave substantial support during the course of military operations in Sierra Leone.


    The military support provided by the accused to the RUF had a significant impact on the commission of crimes, the judge says.


    The chamber finds beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is criminally responsible for aiding and abetting the crimes in Sierra Leone.


    The hearing is being adjourned for a few minutes as the judge says the tape recording the hearing has run out.

    J Cyrus Saygbe Via Facebook BBC Africa

    Monrovia is like a ghost town with UNMIL troops deployed in the streets. The Entire UN office today is closed and all staff are home for fear of the reactions from some of Taylor's supporters .


    The hearing is resuming - so far the international judges have found Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.


    Charles Taylor has been told to stand to hear the verdict.


    The judge listed the 11 counts and has now told Mr Taylor to sit down.


    The judge says a sentence hearing will be held on 16 May, with the sentence to be handed down on Wednesday 30 May 2012.


    "This is an incredibly significant decision," Elise Keppler from the campaign group Human Rights Watch told BBC World. "Today is a landmark moment"


    In summary, Judge Lussick said Taylor had been found guilty for aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes one to 11 in the indictment, but said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was part of a joint criminal enterprise.


    Right group Amnesty International said the verdict sends an important message to all high-ranking state officials. "While today's conviction brings some measure of justice to the people of Sierra Leone, Taylor and the others sentenced by the Special Court are just the tip of the iceberg," the group's Brima Abdulai Sheriff said in a statement.

    Cheru orphaned by the civil war in Sierra Leone

    told the BBC World Service: "Justice has been done today, not only for Sierra Leone but for all Africa. This message has been sent to all politicians, to all people looting."

    World Have Your Say @BBC_WHYS

    Listening to people in Liberia. Many people are angry about the verdict. #bbctaylor #whys

    World Have Your Say @BBC_WHYS

    One man in Monrovia says we feel Charles Taylor was already guilty before the trial. We blame the West for the verdict. #whys #bbctaylor

    Angela Spaid Save the Children's Sierra Leone country director

    Today's events in The Hague bring sharply into focus the grim legacy left behind by the war. The crimes, especially those against children, will rank amongst the most horrendous committed in modern times.

    World Have Your Say @BBC_WHYS

    Jusu lost both hands in the war: I'm overjoyed with the verdict. We've been waiting a long time for this. #whys #bbctaylor


    Charles Taylor's lawyer Courtenay Griffiths says that Taylor has always been stoic individual and he continued to showed that stoicism today.

    Foyo paramount chief in Sierra Leone tells the BBC World Service in Freetown

    This verdict should strengthen our relationship with Liberia. I don't see why the relationship should degenerate again into crisis.


    Courtenay Griffiths, Charles Taylor's lawyer, is holding a press conference. He has questioned why the prosecution went to the expense of flying in supermodel Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow to give evidence when they were not mentioned in today's verdict.

    1340: Mark Doyle BBC News, Freetown

    Sierra Leonean traditional paramount chiefs, legal experts and victims of the war here breathed a sigh of relief when the guilty verdict was read out. They filed out of the court room in Freetown where they had been watching the verdict by video link with quiet satisfaction written on their faces.

    1352: Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis

    tells BBC Newshour "it's a historic day for the people of Sierra Leone", because the verdict "brings some measure of justice for the terrible crimes committed against them". She adds: "It's also another major victory in our very important fight against impunity. People can no longer feel safe that they can hide behind important positions of authority".

    1404: Jonathan Paye-Layleh BBC News, Monrovia

    says an atmosphere of hope and high expectation in the Liberian capital suddenly turned gloomy and sombre after the verdict. Eager youth who had gathered all morning to listen to a live broadcast of the trial became angry, saying Taylor had been cheated. They brandished placards, which read: "We love you Taylor, God willing you will come back" and "He's not guilty."

    Carroll Bogert, Human Rights Watch's deputy executive director

    tweets: "Conviction of Charles #Taylor for #SierraLeone crimes should send a shiver down the spines of dictators everywhere:"


    Here's a look back in pictures at Charles Taylor's role in the inter-related conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone.


    After the verdict, some victims of the war in Sierra Leone - like amputee Alhaji Jusu (below, left) - have been giving their reaction to Taylor's conviction and also relieving the horrors of the conflict.

    Amputee Alhaji Jusu talks to media in The Hague
    1450: UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

    welcomes the verdict as "landmark". He says it "demonstrates that those who have committed the most serious of crimes can and will be held to account for their actions; it demonstrates that the reach of international law is long and not time limited and it demonstrates that heads of state cannot hide behind immunity".

    1504: Abu Bakarr Fofanah, via Facebook BBC Africa

    writes: "Tears run through my eyes today, I can sleep well today."

    1507: Comfort Ero Africa programme director from the conflict resolution think-tank International Crisis Group

    says: "While this is a significant day for Sierra Leone, many in Liberia will have mixed feelings. Taylor and other Liberians have yet to be held to account for crimes committed in Liberia's civil war. Several suspects continue to serve in public office."


    More reaction from Liberia's capital, Monrovia. Journalist Tamasin Ford tells the BBC that many Liberians are convinced that Charles Taylor had nothing to do with the war in another country. They also feel, she adds, that life was better and easier for them under Taylor.

    A street vendor in Freetown watches a live broadcast of the verdict being delivered by a United Nations-backed court in The Hague 26 April 2012

    Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, which witnessed some of the worst atrocities of the civil war, was captivated by the verdict hearing - here a trader watches the live feed in his stall.

    1522: Courtenay Griffiths Charles Taylor's lawyer tells BBC Newshour

    "These verdicts are a major blow to the prosecution because when they began these proceedings it was on the basis that there was this major conspiracy hatched in Libya, with Gaddafi's hidden hand behind it all to take over control of West Africa. These judges have totally rejected that theory. Furthermore, the media has - during the course of the Sierra Leone conflict - portrayed Taylor as micro managing events on the ground in Sierre Leone. Again that was a major part of the prosecution theory which has been completely rejected by these judges. So what are we left with? Him aiding and abetting, ie sending small quantities of arms over the border - two large shipments they say. But hold on a second; here we have the sovereign leader of a sovereign country supporting a rebel movement in a neighbouring country. What happened in Nicaragua with the Contras?"


    The Special Court for Sierra Leone has just released a statement. It says: "With today's judgement, the Special Court has reached a major milestone, and is on course towards being the first modern international criminal tribunal to complete its mandate."


    The court also details the charges against Charles Taylor. It says: "Taylor was convicted on Count 1 for acts of terrorism (a war crime), on Count 2 for murder (a crime against humanity), on Count 3 for murder (a war crime), on Count 4 for rape (a crime against humanity), on Count 5 for sexual slavery (a crime against humanity), on Count 6 for outrages upon personal dignity (a war crime), on Count 7 for cruel treatment (a war crime), on Count 8 for inhumane acts, including mutilations and amputations, (a crime against humanity), on Count 9 for the recruitment, enlistment and use of child soldiers, on Count 10 for enslavement (a crime against humanity), and on Count 11 for pillage (a war crime)."

    Paul K. Ngafua

    tweets: "In Liberia 2day, symphatizers of former Liberian leader... Charles Ghankay Taylor are saddend by the verdict of the Special Court."

    1536: Tamba Foday Sierra Leonean living in London, tells the BBC

    "I am actually appalled about the fact that this trial has taken so long. I suffered personally during the rebel war. My dad was shot dead in front of his family; I lost my sister and other family members just because they lived in the diamond district of Kono. Fifteen years on, the district remains the poorest in the country."

    A victim watches the trial of Liberian ex-leader Charles Taylor on screen inside the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown on 26 April 2012

    An emotional response in the court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown where people watched the verdict live on a screen.

    1548: A supporter of Charles Taylor tells BBC Newshour from Monrovia in Liberia

    "I'm not deterred by this political judgement. We knew that this kind of court (was) set up by Tony Blair and George Bush, we knew that they were going to make this decision today against the Liberian people. We are going to pursue the legal means, but by-and-large we want to tell Mr Taylor, we stand by you. We're going to remember Mr Taylor until death do us part."

    1551: Jon Silverman, professor of media and criminal justice,

    assesses the impact of the Charles Taylor trial on international justice.

    Ross Atkins, BBC News, Freetown,

    tweets: "Lots of people told me there would be dancing &celebration at a guilty verdict. Couldn't be further from the sombre &subdued mood #bbctaylor."

    1559: Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis

    says in a statement: ""Today is for the people of Sierra Leone who suffered horribly because of Charles Taylor. This judgment brings some measure of justice to the many thousands of victims who paid a terrible price for Mr Taylor's crimes."


    More reaction from around the world to the Taylor verdict. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that "the judgment delivered today... represents a landmark decision in the fight against impunity".


    If you're just joining us, welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the guilty verdict to former Liberian President Charles Taylor by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. We're bringing you the latest updates from our correspondents, expert analysis and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

    1614: The Guardian

    is running an analysis piece by its correspondent Afua Hirsch under the headline "Charles Taylor is guilty - but what's the verdict on international justice?"


    US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland describes the verdict in The Hague as "an important step toward delivering justice and accountability for victims, restoring peace and stability in the country and the region".

    1627: L A Odicean

    tells the BBC: "Justice has not been completed. I hope efforts to bring to justice all those guilty of terrible crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other African states will continue, and will be speeded up."

    1631: Robin White Former BBC Focus on Africa editor,

    says: "I was surprised to hear Charles Taylor being described as quiet and subdued during the verdict - it must have been the first time he'd been quiet and subdued in his life."


    The mood after the verdict was sombre in Freetown (see Ross Atkins' entry lower down), with some residents of Sierra Leone'e capital clearly stating their demands to Charles Taylor.

    A man with a banner in Freetown, Sierra Leona
    1640: John Richardson, from the Association for the Legal Defence of Charles Taylor in Monrovia,

    tells the BBC's Focus on Africa: "No, I'm not surprised (by the verdict). I spoke to him (Charles Taylor) two days ago, he was in good spirits\u2026. I think people shouldn't overreact, this is part of a process - there's a lot of media hype."


    The BBC News website is now running a piece about contrasting reactions to Taylor's conviction in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    1650: MKMAT

    tells the BBC: "Yes, this is historic (verdict) and to be welcomed. Hopefully, it will send a message to other so-called leaders who believe they are above the law. However, how on earth could it have taken 5 years? It is ridiculous and must have cost millions and millions."

    1656: Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist and Nobel peace prize winner,

    tells the BBC's Focus on Africa programme it is important for the amputees and victims of Sierra Leone's civil war to feel they have justice: "There has to be some form of compensation for them to be able to move on with their lives. The trial itself cost millions of dollars."

    Ross Atkins, BBC's World Have Your Say in Freetown,

    tweets: "Some people have told #whys they're worried about relations between Liberia and Sierra Leone now."


    That concludes our live coverage of the guilty verdict of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Thanks for staying with us. You can still follow all the updates on Africa's biggest story of the day on the BBC News website.


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