Taylor plans to appeal

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IOL pic june20 charles taylor appeal Associated Press (File image) Charles Taylor

The Hague - Lawyers for Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor have informed a UN-backed court that they plan to appeal his 50-year prison sentence for war crimes, according to a court document seen on Tuesday.

The defence signalled their intent to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, based outside The Hague, on Monday, according to a copy obtained by AFP.

The prosecution, which sought an 80-year sentence against the former warlord during the landmark trial, has also signalled its intention to appeal the sentence, SCSL public affairs chief Peter Andersen told reporters.

Both sides had a Tuesday deadline to file the actual appeals, but they have asked for extensions - three weeks for the prosecution and five weeks for the defence, Andersen said.

Taylor, 64, was sentenced on May 30 for arming Sierra Leone's rebels in return for “blood diamonds” during the country's brutal 1991-2001 civil war, which claimed 120 000 lives.

The court found that Taylor was paid in diamonds mined in areas under the control of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels, who murdered, raped and mutilated their victims while forcing children to fight and be sex slaves.

Taylor maintained his innocence during the trial, which saw a number of high-profile witnesses testify, including supermodel Naomi Campbell.

In April, Taylor was convicted on all 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for aiding and abetting “some of the most heinous crimes in human history”.

It was the first judgment against a former head of state by an international court since the Nuremberg Nazi trials in 1946.

Pending the appeal on his sentence, Taylor would be transferred to a British jail under the 2007 deal that resulted in his trial before the SCSL, which is located in Leidschendam, outside The Hague.

Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, Taylor was transferred to The Hague in mid-2006 amid fears that trying him in Freetown would pose a security threat.

He was arrested in March 2006 as he tried to flee from exile in Nigeria, after being forced to quit Liberia three years earlier under international pressure to end a civil war in his own country. - AFP

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