Da Mail & Guardian del 30/03/2006
Originale su http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=268074

'Dejected' Taylor jailed in Sierra Leone

di Clarence Roy-Macaulay

Freetown, Sierra Leone - United Nations peacekeepers escorted the captured former Liberian President Charles Taylor into jail on Wednesday at the Sierra Leone tribunal where he is wanted for trial on war-crimes charges.

Taylor, handcuffed and looking dejected, was led behind a razor-wired gate into the holding penitentiary where nine other defendants in Sierra Leone's brutal 1989-2002 civil war are held.

Taylor, captured late on Tuesday as he tried to leave his Nigerian home-in-exile, arrived in a United Nations helicopter that had shuttled him from a brief stopover on Wednesday in his native Liberia. Nigeria, which has been Taylor's home since he stepped down from power in 2003 during a rebel attack, arrested him and deported him to Liberia.

Taylor is wanted on 17 charges of crimes against humanity stemming from his support of brutal rebels that terrorised the civilian population for years, chopping off the arms, legs, ears and lips of their victims.

Taylor left from Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria's north-western Borno state, where he was captured late on Tuesday night trying to slip across the border into Cameroon after leaving his home in Southern Nigeria.

Taylor was trying to escape in a vehicle with his son, an aide-de-camp and a local guide, along with two 50kg sacks filled with cash in US dollars and euros, according to Nigerian police official Alhaji Mohammed Aminu Bello.

Both Taylor and his son were taken in for interrogation, and the driver and Taylor's assistant were let go, Bello said.

The former warlord was reported missing from his villa on Monday night, just days after President Olusegun Obasanjo reluctantly bowed to pressure to surrender him to face justice.

Nigeria had granted asylum to the fast-talking, United States-educated economist under a 2003 agreement that helped end Liberia's 14-year civil war.

The acknowledgment that Taylor had slipped away came an hour before Obasanjo left Nigeria on a presidential jet headed for Washington, where he was to meet with US President George Bush on Wednesday.

Obasanjo said on Wednesday that the arrest of the former Liberian president changed the atmosphere for his meeting with Bush.

"I feel vindicated," Obasanjo said as he rejected the notion that Nigerian authorities might have been complicit in Taylor's escape. Those who spread such ideas "are wrong and owe an apology", he said.

Nigeria resisted calls for two days from the United States, human rights organisations and the war tribunal in Sierra Leone for authorities to arrest Taylor, who escaped from a US jail in Boston in 1985 -- to ensure he would stand trial.

All 22 Nigerian police officers responsible for guarding Taylor have been arrested, the Nigerian government said Tuesday.

In Liberia, neither the government nor officials of the 15 000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force would comment.


LIBERIA'S PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF HAD SAID LIBERIA

wanted Taylor sent to Sierra Leone to stand trial, not to Liberia, where it is feared his presence could destabilise an already fragile country taking its first steps toward rebuilding since the new leader was installed in January.

Security officials in Liberia said they had arrested several Taylor supporters, allegedly for holding secret meetings to plot how Taylor could avoid standing trial.

Taylor, a one-time warlord and rebel leader, is charged with backing Sierra Leone rebels, including child fighters, who terrorised victims by chopping off body parts. He would be the first African leader to face trial for alleged crimes against humanity.

While the Sierra Leone tribunal's charges refer only to the war there, Taylor also has been accused of starting civil war in Liberia and of harboring al-Qaeda suicide bombers who attacked the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 200 people.

Obasanjo has consistently resisted calls to surrender Taylor to the war tribunal. But he agreed on Saturday to hand him over to Liberia, acting on a request from Johnson-Sirleaf.

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