Defense table vacant at war crimes trial

Feb. 9, 2011 at 4:05 PM
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The war crimes tribunal in The Hague ordered Liberian leader Charles Taylor's lead defense counsel Wednesday to appear when proceedings resume.

The judges adjourned the proceedings until Friday after Taylor and lawyer Courtenay Griffiths walked out of court Tuesday, the BBC reported. Griffiths objected when the tribunal refused to accept his final brief because it was submitted after the deadline.

The defense had been expected to begin closing arguments Wednesday. While Taylor's section in the courtroom was empty except for a duty lawyer, Griffiths made his case to reporters outside, The Times of South Africa reported.

"What we were trying to do is ensure we get some semblance of justice out of this and it's turned into this personalized attack on us," Griffiths said. "I find it totally despicable." Griffiths had requested an extension of the filing time limit before the deadline. He said he was still waiting for the judges to rule on eight legal matters and, therefore, had not been ready to file his summary last month.

Taylor is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is accused of fueling the civil war in Sierra Leone by outfitting rebels with proceeds from the sale of conflict, or "blood," diamonds.

Taylor has maintained since the proceeding began in June 2007 he would not receive a fair trial. A verdict is expected later this year.

When court opened Wednesday, the presiding judge said she received a document indicating Taylor waived his right to be in court.

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