Taylor trial extended

16 February 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

His pen and notepad were already neatly packed, ready to leave the courtroom. But the judges ordered him to sit down, and two guards saw to it that the once-feared Charles Taylor witnessed the final stages of his trial for war crimes. But after the morning coffee break, the former Liberian president didn’t show up and decided to stay away for the rest of the week.

It was not the final act that American prosecutor Brenda Hollis of the Special Court for Sierra Leone had been hoping for. After a trial lasting more than three years, the final oral pleadings had been planned for last week. But Tuesday morning immediately started off with a row.

The judges had decided on Monday to decline Charles Taylor’s final brief because it was filed three weeks late. Taylor’s lawyer Courtenay Griffiths declared that decision a disgrace, and announced that he would no longer participate in this “complete farce,” after he angrily stormed out of the courtroom and announced that he was boycotting the rest of the oral pleadings.

The ever-calm Hollis was angry about the state of affairs and told the judges that Taylor was “not attending a social event. He may not RSVP at the last minute.” The judges ruled that neither Taylor, nor Griffiths were “running the court,” and let Hollis finish her plea. Taylor listened to her until the first break, but after coffee he let it be known that he wasn’t coming back because he was “very upset and he needed some rest.”

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