Liberias Ex President Denies War Atrocities In Trial

07.14.09 | FL News Team

(The Hague) -- Liberia's ex-president says war crimes charges against him are based on rumors and lies. Charles Taylor took the stand in his own defense today at his trial in The Hague. Taylor stands accused of pulling the strings behind a rebel group's grisly spree of atrocities in Sierra Leone's eleven-year civil war. Prosecutors have tried to link Taylor to child murders, mass rapes, cannibalism and amputations.  

Taylor told a UN-backed court, "The prosecution, because of disiniformation, misinformation, lies, rumors, would associate me with such titles or descriptions." The 61-year-old Taylor went on to describe himself as a father of 14 children and grandfather who did what was right. He also said, "I resent that characterization of me. It is false, it is malicious." Taylor testified he had never swapped arms for the rebels for a jar full of diamonds, calling it "a diabolical lie."   

Taylor is slated to continue testifying for several weeks. The prosecution wrapped up its case in February after nearly two years of testimony from 91 witnesses. The defense plans to call some 249 witnesses.

Taylor is the first African leader to ever stand trial for war crimes. The American-educated Taylor was briefly imprisoned in Massachusetts on charges of embezzling from the Liberian government, but escaped in 1985. He went on to become the country's fiercest warlord and its president from 1997 until he was forced into exile in 2003.