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Liberia’s Taylor denies bloody role

Associated Press / November 10, 2009

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THE HAGUE - Liberia’s former president ended 13 weeks on the witness stand yesterday by rejecting allegations that he commanded and controlled rebels who killed and mutilated thousands of civilians during Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

Prosecutors say Charles Taylor provided arms, ammunition, and other support to the rebels in return for diamonds mined by slave laborers, in one case, smuggled out in a mayonnaise jar.

“There are no diamonds running in and out [of Liberia] by the mayonnaise jar-full,’’ said Taylor, 61.

He also rejected other statements in an intelligence report compiled for an unnamed Western power, including allegations that he had a secret Swiss bank account, an arms bunker underneath his presidential mansion in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, that he took kickbacks in cash and weapons for timber concessions, and even that he ran an escort agency.

“The president of Liberia involved in call girls? That is nonsense,’’ said Taylor.

He is accused of 11 counts of murder, rape, sexual slavery, cruelty, forced labor, and recruiting child soldiers as he supported rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. He has denied all allegations.

He is expected to complete his testimony today.

Prosecutors are looking forward to questioning the former president, who is the first African head of state indicted while in office.