Key members of ex-President Charles Taylor’s family including some closed allies amongst them a journalist, have been invited by Mr. Taylor to attend his verdict due on April 26, this month.
Though the exact number of invitees is not yet known, this paper gathers that individuals heading for the verdict have already began making travelling preparations.
Sources closed to Taylor told this paper that the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone will underwrite the travelling expenses.
Mr. Taylor accused of arming Sierra Leonean rebels, faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But he had since denied all charges. Special Court officials on March 1, 2012 announced that the much anticipated verdict would be handed down on April 26, a year after the trial ended with closing arguments.
But the announcement was followed by a motion filed by lawyers representing Taylor requesting an extension of the date. Taylor’s defense team filed the motion requesting a change in the trial judgment date due to prior engagement by lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths in a London High Court.
Griffiths had furthered argued that the timing of the ruling, which is on the eve of Sierra Leone’s Independence Day, is in bad taste because a conviction would make Taylor appear as an offering to the people of Sierra Leone. But prosecutors objected the defense request, urging the judges to stand by their originally announced date of April 26.
The request was opposed by the prosecution, who asked that judges reject the motion. In a response to the defense motion, the Prosecution argued that “the Defense has failed to establish that the Accused would be prejudiced if the judgment in this case was delivered on 26 April 2012 as scheduled.”
Prosecutors furthered argued that if in fact the date for the delivery of judgment was moved from April 26, it will affect Mr. Taylor’s right to a fair and expeditious trial. Prosecutors further argue that the Defense motion only talks about the absence of lead defense counsel and does not say anything about the presence or absence of other members of the defense team.
Thus the judges dismissed the motion noting that when it issued their Scheduling Order on March 1 confirming that the judgment will be delivered on April 26, this gave Taylor’s lead counsel a notice of about eight weeks, which according to the judges “is more than reasonable time for Counsel to make arrangements to be present for delivery of judgment.”
The judges also noted that there are other co-counsel as part of Taylor’s defense team who would be present in court in a case that lead counsel cannot attend proceedings on that day.
The trial opened on 4 June 2007 in The Hague. It was adjourned immediately after the Prosecution’s opening statement when Mr. Taylor dismissed his Defence team and requested new representation. Witness testimony commenced on 7 January 2008, and ended on 12 November 2010. Closing arguments took place in February and March 2011.
The Court heard live testimony from 94 prosecution witnesses, and received written statements from four additional witnesses. The Defence presented 21 witnesses, with Mr. Taylor testifying in his defense.