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Court upholds Charles Taylor's 50-year sentence for Sierra Leone war crimes

An appeals court upheld the 50-year sentence for Charles Taylor, convicted of war crimes in Sierra Leone.
Posted By KRISTEN BUTLER, UPI.com   |   Sept. 26, 2013 at 7:32 AM   |   Comments

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- An appeals court on Thursday upheld the 50-year sentence for Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, on charges of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity for his part in aiding brutal rebels in Sierra Leone during its 1990s civil war.

In 2011, Taylor was found guilty on all 11 counts against him including the use of child soldiers, murder, rape and the mutilation of thousands of civilians.

After a trial that lasted from 2007 to 2011, Taylor was sentenced in May 2012 to 50 years in prison -- becoming the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

The defense appealed the verdict and sentence on 42 grounds, saying the sentence was "manifestly unreasonable." The defense argued the Special Court on Sierra Leone had made “systematic errors in the evaluation of evidence and in the application of law” serious enough to "reverse all findings of guilt entered against him."

The prosecution, meanwhile, argued for increasing Taylor's sentence to 80 years, saying the original sentence was not "reflective of the inherent gravity of the totality of his criminal conduct and overall culpability."

During his original trial, Taylor had said that though he was aware of atrocities in Sierra Leone, he would "never, ever" have allowed them.

But the presiding judge on the appeals panel, George Gelaga King, said Taylor had advised and encouraged rebel groups with full awareness.

“Their primary purpose was to spread terror. Brutal violence was purposely unleashed against civilians with the purpose of making them afraid, afraid that there would be more violence if they continued to resist,” Judge King said.

Taylor, 65, will serve his sentence -- likely the remainder of his life -- in a British maximum security prison.

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