Sierra Leone rebels depended on Taylor

Leidscehndam - Sierra Leone's rebels depended on logistics provided by Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor to kill, rape and mutilate thousands during the west African nation's savage civil war, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The Revolutionary United Front "relied on Taylor's logistical assistance", Nicholas Koumjian told Sierra Leone's UN-backed special court, where the former warlord is appealing a 50-year prison sentence.

"Without this support, thousands would not have been killed, would not have been amputated, would not have been taken as sex slaves," he told a second day of the appeals hearing, held at the court's headquarters in Leidschendam just outside The Hague.

Dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and dark tie, with rimless round glasses perched on his nose, Taylor frowned often as he listened intently to the prosecution's arguments.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in April last year convicted Taylor, 64, for aiding and abetting the RUF and its allies which waged a terror campaign during a civil war that claimed 120 000 lives between 1991 and 2001.

His sentence for "some of the most heinous crimes in human history" was widely welcomed around the world and was the first handed down by an international court against a former head of state since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946.

As neighbouring Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, Taylor gave rebels guns and ammunition in their fight against Freetown during the conflict, know for its mutilations, drugged child soldiers and sex slaves, trial judges found.

In return, trial judges found, Taylor was paid in "blood diamonds" mined by slave labour in areas kept under the control of ruthless Sierra Leonean rebels.

Court wrong

Taylor's lawyers however, argued on Tuesday that he could not be linked to weapons used by rebels to commit any crimes in Sierra Leone.

They said the court made legal mistakes in convicting the former strongman and asked appeals judges to reverse the conviction and quash the sentence.

Prosecutors argued Taylor's sentence was too light and asked, on appeal, for 80 years.

Taylor's trial, which ended in March 2011, saw a number of high-profile witnesses testify including British supermodel Naomi Campbell, who told the court she received a gift of "dirty diamonds", said to be from the flamboyant Taylor.

Appeals judges are expected to have a decision by September at the earliest.

If his appeal fails, Taylor will serve his sentence in a British jail.

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