- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

LEIDSCHENDAM, NetherlandsCharles Taylor’s war crimes trial is ending the way it began — with the former Liberian president boycotting proceedings and claiming they are politically motivated and unfair.

Mr. Taylor’s British attorney, Courtenay Griffiths, stormed out of the courtroom Tuesday after judges at the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone refused to accept his 600-page summary of the case — a key document that distills three years of testimony from the defense’s perspective.

Mr. Taylor briefly stayed in his seat but later refused to return to the courtroom after a break. Mr. Griffiths said it would have been “unseemly” if Mr. Taylor had tried to walk out with his lawyer and had struggled with his U.N. guards.

The boycott was unlikely to have an impact on the outcome of the case. The three international judges ordered the proceedings to continue, and one judge appeared visibly angry at what he called Mr. Taylor’s attempt to dictate to the court.

“If Mr. Taylor thinks he can make orders or disobey orders of this court at will, simply because he thinks it is in his best interest to do so, then he is running this court, not us,” said Judge Richard Lussick of Samoa.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor awaits the start of the prosecution's closing arguments during his war crimes trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Jerry Lampen, Pool)
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor awaits the start of the prosecution’s closing ... more >

Mr. Taylor is accused of arming and supporting murderous rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for illegally mined diamonds. He has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and the use of child soldiers.

His trial marks the first time a former African head of state has appeared before an international war crimes tribunal.

“Look at it from the point of view of the legacy of the tribunal,” Mr. Griffiths said after defying judges by walking out of the courtroom. “The most important defendant (could be) convicted without the judges hearing his lawyer’s closing arguments.”

The tribunal, in a majority decision, refused Monday to accept Mr. Griffiths‘ final brief because it was filed after the Jan. 14 deadline.

Ugandan Judge Julia Sebutinde dissented, warning that refusing to accept Mr. Taylor’s summation “is to deny him his fundamental right to defend himself.”

Mr. Griffiths conceded the late filing but said rejecting it for being 20 days late, “within the context of a trial lasting three years, is, in my submission, totally unreasonable.”

He said he would appeal the decision.

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis accused Mr. Taylor of deliberately defying the court, just as he did when he boycotted its opening in June 2007, leading to a six-month delay.

“We have seen this attempt at manipulation of the proceedings at the beginning, and now we are seeing it at the end,” Ms. Hollis said.

“The accused is not attending a social event. He may not R.S.V.P. at the last minute,” Ms. Hollis said. “He is the accused at a criminal proceeding.”

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