Ending three years of silence, former Liberian President Charles Taylor began building his defense against war crimes charges, portraying himself as a peacemaker rather than the brutal warlord described by prosecutors.
“I am not guilty of all these charges, not even a minute part of these charges,” he said from the witness stand, raising his voice in anger. “This whole case is a case of deceit, deception and lies.”
Taylor is charged with 11 counts of murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers and terrorism in his role backing rebels in Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war. Taylor’s testimony is expected to last several weeks.
An estimated 500,000 people were the victims of killings, systematic mutilation and other atrocities during the war, with some of the worst crimes committed by child soldiers, who were drugged to desensitize them to the horror of their actions.