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Archive for Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Liberia’s ex-leader denounces charges

July 15, 2009

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— His combat fatigues were replaced by a dark suit and tie, and the tinted aviator glasses gave the former Liberian leader a haughty air as he took the stand Tuesday to emphatically denounce the war crimes charges against him as “disinformation, misinformation, lies, rumors.”

Charles Taylor, once one of West Africa’s most powerful men, is charged with 11 counts of murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers and terrorism in his role backing rebels in Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

An estimated 500,000 people were the victims of killings, systematic mutilation or other atrocities in that war, with some of the worst crimes committed by child soldiers who were drugged to desensitize them.

The 61-year-old Taylor spoke with the confidence of a practiced politician as he began his defense by portraying himself as a peacemaker rather than the cannibalistic warlord described by prosecutors at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

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