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Monday, July 27, 2009

Charles Taylor denies cannibalism

File photo of Charles Taylor on trial in the Hague, 14 July 2009
Charles Taylor faces 11 counts related to the war in Sierra Leone

Former Liberian leader Charles Taylor has denied eating human flesh or ordering militias to eat their enemies.

Speaking at his war crimes trial in The Hague, Mr Taylor was quoted as saying accusations of cannibalism levelled against him were "total nonsense".

Some of Mr Taylor's former fighters have previously told the court that he had ordered them to eat their enemies.

Mr Taylor has denied 11 charges related to the civil war in Sierra Leone, Liberia's neighbour.

At the start of the third week of his trial, Mr Taylor also said impassable roads would have made it impossible for him to trade weapons for Sierra Leone's diamonds, as the prosecution alleges.

On trial at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr Taylor is accused of having armed and directed rebel groups from Liberia in order to seize control of Sierra Leone's diamond riches.

The 61-year-old denies charges including terrorism, murder, rape and torture.

He is the first African leader to be tried by an international court.

'Never happened'

Responding to the allegations of cannibalism, Mr Taylor was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: "It is sickening. You must be sick to believe it."

Violation of humanitarian law:Conscripting child soldiers
Crimes against humanity:Terrorising civilians, murder, rape, sexual slavery, enslavement
War crimes: "Violence to life", cruel treatment (including hacking off limbs), pillage

"It makes you feel like throwing up."

The former Liberian leader said there were cannibals in parts of his country, but he was not among them.

One witness had told the court he had eaten human flesh with Mr Taylor at a meeting of a secret society, Poro, AFP reports.

"It never happened," the former president responded. "I never ordered any combatant to eat anyone."

Denying accusations that he had traded diamonds for arms, he said neither of the two roads leading to the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone could support vehicles laden with weapons.

One of Mr Taylor's former bodyguards testified last year that he had escorted such vehicles, and the court was shown a photo with a lorry allegedly pictured near the border.

Mr Taylor said on Monday that the accusation was a "lie", also dismissing allegations that he accepted diamonds from rebels in Sierra Leone.

An estimated 500,000 people were killed, mutilated or suffered other atrocities in the civil war in Sierra Leone, which lasted from 1991 until 2002.

A verdict in Mr Taylor's trial, which was moved from Sierra Leone to the Netherlands because of security concerns, is expected next year.

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