- Karim Khan, the lawyer of the former Liberian President on Monday informed the Swiss Court that potential defence witnesses for his client have refused to testify in court, fearing they might be slapped with the United Nations travel bans.
Charles Taylor, 59, Liberia’s rebel turned President, has been charged with 11 counts, including terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, mutilation and rendering assistance to Sierra Leonean rebels during the country’s civil war.
Mr Taylor, who appears in court 4 June, has denied all the charges. He faces a maximum of life in jail if found guilty of the crimes.
For security reasons, the case has been moved to The Hague for prosecution.
Mr Taylor’s attorney told the pre-trial hearing that his efforts to build a defence were aborted by the threats of U.N. sanctions. He said it has come to his knowledge that numerous individuals are unwilling to speak to the defence for fear of being petrified of having travel bans imposed upon them as well as have their assets frozen by the Security Council for associating with Mr Taylor’s defence.
Dressed in a dark suit and brown tie, Mr Taylor sat in the court while his lawyer holds brief for him. He was allowed to wear sunglasses because of an eye infection.
Lawyer Khan intends to file a motion asking judges to grant witnesses protection from sanctions because sanctions would amount to witness intimidation, no matter where it comes from.
Mr Taylor’s lawyer also grinds axe with the court for its failure to adequately bankroll the defence team of his client who has two lawyers and three legal assistants.
"The concern of my client is that he is being short-changed.” He said his client’s effect to meet the court official over his problems met the rock.
Justice Julia Sebutinde, a Ugandan who presided over the case, asked the court officers responsible for funding the ex-leader’s defence needed to act quickly so that the trial can start on time.
"I do not want to hear afterwards that as a result of some decision taken somewhere that Mr. Taylor is not in a position to start trial," Justice Sebutinde said, adding, “this would be very, very unfortunate if it did happen."
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