Liberia's Taylor appeals war crimes conviction

Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor has appealed his conviction and 50-year jail sentence for war crimes in Sierra Leone, the international court handling the case said Thursday.

"Charles Taylor appeals against the judgement and the sentencing judgement... and respectfully requests that (the) appeals chamber reverse all the convictions entered against him," said the defence request made public by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Taylor was found guilty in April of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierre Leone, for aiding and abetting "some of the most heinous crimes in human history".

He was the first former head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg Nazi trials in 1946.

The former warlord was sentenced in May to 50 years in jail after his conviction on 11 counts for arming Sierra Leone's rebels in return for "blood diamonds" during the war which claimed 120,000 lives.

In the appeal document, his defence said the court had made "systematic errors" in evaluating evidence, and relied on "uncorroborated hearsay evidence as the sole basis for specific incriminating findings of fact".

The prosecution, which had sought an 80-year jail term for Taylor, has also appealed, according to the court which is based outside The Hague.

The court had found that Taylor was paid in diamonds mined in areas under the control of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels, who murdered, raped and mutilated their victims while forcing children to fight and keeping sex slaves.

Taylor, 64, maintained his innocence during the trial which saw a number of high-profile witnesses testify including British supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, Taylor was arrested in March 2006 as he tried to flee from exile in Nigeria, after being forced to quit Liberia three years earlier under international pressure to end a civil war in his own country.

He was transferred to The Hague in 2006 amid fears that trying him in Freetown would pose a security threat. He was due to serve his sentence in a British jail.

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