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23.07.2006 Africa

Taylor complains about Hague jail

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Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has said he is unhappy with "draconian" conditions in the Dutch prison where he is awaiting trial.

Mr Taylor's lawyer made the complaint during his first appearance before a special UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

Mr Taylor faces 11 war crimes charges after allegedly backing rebels in the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war.

He was arrested in Nigeria this year and detained in Sierra Leone before being moved to The Hague for security.

Attorney Karim Asad Ahmad Khan described The Hague jail regime as "far more draconian... than operates in Freetown", the capital of Sierra Leone.

He said Mr Taylor was locked in his cell for up to 16 hours a day and could not make as many phone calls as he was allowed in Sierra Leone.

He also complained that his client was forced to eat "Eurocentric" food.

'Repugnant to justice'

Mr Khan also objected to comments made by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan during a visit earlier this month to the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown.

Mr Khan said Mr Annan had referred to war crimes suspects such as Mr Taylor as criminals, undermining their right to be presumed innocent - something that was "repugnant to justice".

Although the Special Court for Sierra Leone is situated in Sierra Leone itself, Mr Taylor is being tried in the Netherlands for fear that his presence in Sierra Leone might lead to unrest.

The Dutch government agreed to host Mr Taylor's trial, as long as he was imprisoned in another country if he was convicted.

The United Kingdom has agreed to jail Mr Taylor in the event he is convicted.

Both Sierra Leone and Liberia are recovering from years of conflict, in which Mr Taylor played a central role.

Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels were notorious for mutilating civilians, by hacking off their arms or legs with machetes.

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