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Court Cases

Charles Taylor begins appeal at The Hague

The former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, is appealing a special UN court conviction that sentenced him to 50 years in jail last May. He was found guilty of aiding and abetting rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor on Tuesday launched his appeal at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam near The Hague, which convicted him last year of stoking a decade-long civil war in that country.

Taylor was convicted of assisting two key rebel factions in the Sierra Leone conflict, in exchange for blood diamonds mined by slave laborers in regions controlled by the rebels.

He said two weeks prior to the verdict that he "never stood a chance" in a tribunal that practiced a "one size fits all form of international justice."

After the case, he called on the court to repeal its verdict, calling it a "miscarriage of justice."

The 64-year-old wore a black suit, white shirt and red tie at the appeal's opening in the Netherlands. At the May conclusion of his original trial, the presiding judge said Taylor was being convicted for "some of the most heinous crimes in human history."

Prosecutors are using the appeal to argue that the initial conviction was too mild. They say that Taylor issued direct orders to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), rather than just supporting them at one step's remove.

Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war claimed some 120,000 lives, Taylor was found to have aided and abetted crimes including murder, rape and terrorism on the rebel side.

Taylor became the first former head of state to be convicted at an international court since the Nuremberg Trials of 1946. There, longstanding German naval commander Admiral Karl Dönitz, who coordinated Germany's World War II surrender in a brief tenure as "president" after Adolf Hitler's suicide, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a wartime role that the court found to be primarily military in nature.

msh/rg (AFP, AP, dpa)