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|December 4, 2013|
Liberia ex-leader Charles Taylor gets 50 years in jail
Liberia's ex-President Charles Taylor has been sentenced to 50 years in jail by a UN-backed war crimes court.
Last month Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war.
Special Court for Sierra Leone judges said the sentence reflected his status as head of state at the time and his betrayal of public trust.
Taylor, 64, insists he is innocent and is likely to appeal against the sentence, correspondents say.
The appeal process could last up to six months, the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague reports.
Taylor, wearing a suit and yellow tie, showed no emotion during the hearing.
"The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting some of the most heinous crimes in human history," Judge Richard Lussick said.
The crimes, which took place over five years, included cutting off the limbs of their victims and cutting open pregnant women to settle bets over the sex of their unborn children, he said.
The prosecution had wanted an 80-year prison term to reflect the severity of the crimes and the central role that Taylor had in facilitating them.
But the judge said that would have been excessive - taking into account the limited scope of his involvement in planning operations in Sierra Leone.
However, Judge Lussick said in return for a constant flow of diamonds, Taylor provided arms and both logistical and moral support to the Revolutionary United Front rebels, prolonging the conflict and the suffering of the people of Sierra Leone.
"While Mr Taylor never set foot in Sierra Leone, his heavy footprint is there," the judge said.
"The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions," he said.
In its landmark ruling in April, the court found Taylor guilty on 11 counts, relating to atrocities that included rape and murder.
He became the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of Nazis after World War II.
This "special status" had put Taylor in a "different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing," the judge said.
Taylor, who accused the prosecution of paying and threatening witnesses in his war crimes trial, had asked judges to consider his age when making their decision, saying he was "no threat to society".
But the trial chamber said that, given his social background and standing, "rehabilitation" was not likely.
The fact that he had not expressed remorse or apologized for his part in the conflict also affected the sentence, the judge said.
Earlier, his lawyers had urged the court not to support "attempts by the prosecution to provide the Sierra Leoneans with this external bogeyman upon whom can be heaped the collective guilt of a nation for its predominantly self-inflicted wounds".
Taylor's brother-in-law in Liberia, Arthur Saye, maintained the whole process had been "politically motivated".
"The sentence is outrageous. How can you give a man 50 years for only aiding and abetting?" he told the BBC.
Suzanah Vaye, whose husband was killed during the last days of Taylor's rule, was less sympathetic: "Today, I join Sierra Leoneans in saying this should be a lesson to people that God has his own way of bringing judgment to people."
The case was heard in The Hague for fear that a trial in Sierra Leone could destabilize the region.
The Dutch government only agreed if Taylor would serve any sentence in another country.
He will serve any prison term in the UK but will be held in The Hague until the results of his appeal. (Source: BBC)
Story Date: May 31, 2012