Judges in the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor have refused to allow the seizure of the Liberian president’s personal archive, despite the possibility that it contains documents implicating Taylor in atrocities in Sierra Leone.
At a hearing Tuesday at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, Presiding Judge Julia Sebutinde said prosecutors had given no valid reason for the documents to be seized.
Prosecutors argued that the archive likely contains documents that would incriminate Taylor, who is charged with arming and supporting rebels who murdered thousands of civilians and hacked off the limbs of thousands more during Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war, which ended in 2002. Taylor has pleaded innocent.
Sitting in court Tuesday in a dark blue suit and yellow tie, Taylor looked relaxed, sometimes chatting and laughing with his lawyers. He is being tried in The Hague because of fears that holding the case in Sierra Leone could re-ignite violence there.
In a motion, prosecutors argued that it was “highly probable that the accused’s personal archives’ contain relevant material which will materially assist the prosecution case But judges who are to restart Taylor’s trial on Jan. 7, rejected the request as too vague, saying it “has all the hallmarks of a fishing expedition.” In a written ruling, judges said prosecutors had “not identified the information sought, nor even described it by its general nature.”