THE HAGUE, Netherlands, May 16 (UPI) -- Reconciliation should be a guiding principle when assessing past atrocities committed during civil war, convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor said.
Taylor addressed a war crimes tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands, before his sentencing hearing later this month. He was convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes in neighboring Sierra Lone.
During his statements, Taylor said witnesses who testified against him were paid or coerced and questioned the motives of the court.
"Reconciliation and healing, not retribution, should be the guiding principles in your honors' task," he said.
The prosecution is seeking an 80-year prison sentence. The former president would serve time in a British prison.
Prosecutors, in a 77-page sentencing brief, described decapitated heads placed at checkpoints, public disembowelments, public rapes and the burning to death of civilians during the height of the war.
Taylor's defense team said a sentence of 80 years was excessive given that the court found Taylor wasn't directly responsible for the atrocities.
An estimated 50,000 people were killed in the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone. Taylor is the first sitting or former head of state to face prosecution by a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 30.
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