THE HAGUE (RPRN) 7/14/2009–Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has testified for the first time at his war crimes trial in The Hague in the Netherlands, saying the case against him is based on lies. Mr. Taylor told the court it was “incredible” and “very, very unfortunate” that the prosecution would rely on what he called misinformation and rumors about his role in neighboring Sierra Leone’s bloody 10-year civil war, which ended in 2002.
He mentioned his 14 children when he said he had fought all his life to do what he thought was right.
The 61-year-old former Liberian leader is accused of supporting the Revolutionary United FrontÂ (RUF) in Sierra Leone, smuggling weapons to the rebels in exchange for so-called “blood diamonds.”
The RUF is blamed for atrocities including the mutilation of thousands of civilians by cutting off their arms and legs.
Mr. Taylor, the first African head of state to be tried by an international tribunal, is charged with 11 criminal acts, including murder, rape, torture, enslavement and forcing children to become soldiers.
He was arrested in 2003, shortly after he was overthrown and forced into exile in Nigeria.
The Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone, the United Nations-backed court hearing the charges against Taylor, moved the proceedings to The Hague out of fears it would spark more violence in the region.
Taylor’s testimony is expected to last several weeks.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.