Top News

Taylor's defense: 80-year jailing request "vindictive"

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor looks down as he waits for the start of a hearing to receive a verdict in a court room of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, near The Hague, April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Peter Dejong/Pool

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Lawyers for Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president convicted of crimes against humanity, described the 80-year jail term demanded by prosecutors as “vindictive” on Friday,

Taylor, 66, was convicted last month by a special court in The Hague of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, during the 11-year civil war that raged in Sierra Leone until 2002.

The prosecution called for the court to jail Taylor for 80 years in a court filing on May 3.

Taylor’s lawyers sent in their own filing to the judges on Friday, saying the prosecution had failed to prove Taylor had direct criminal involvement in the crimes.

“The prosecution vindictively argues that Mr. Taylor be given a ... sentence of 80 years on the basis that ... he ‘planned the bloodiest chapter in the Sierra Leonean war’,” the defense team wrote.

“It would be manifestly unfair to impose a sentence, which effectively puts all moral blame for all the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone solely on Mr. Taylor’s shoulders, as the Prosecution suggests,” the lawyers added.

Judges are due to sentence Taylor at the end of this month.

The defense team argued Taylor’s age and the likelihood of his rehabilitation, given his strong faith, were mitigating factors. Taylor receives regular visits from a rabbi in his detention centre.

“We urge that the Trial Chamber arrive at a fair and just sentence,” his lawyers added, without suggesting an alternative penalty.

Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Sara Webb and Andrew Heavens