- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A federal grand jury in Miami has charged the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in the 2002 torture of a man who was burned with a hot iron, forced at gunpoint to hold scalding water, repeatedly shocked and had salt rubbed into his wounds.

Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said the indictment, handed up in U.S. District Court in Miami, accuses Roy Belfast Jr., 29, who also is known as Charles Taylor Jr., Charles Taylor II and Charles McArthur Emmanuel, with one count of torture, one count of conspiracy to torture, and one count of using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

Mrs. Fisher said the indictment charges Belfast, who was born in the United States, with participating in the July 2002 torture in Monrovia, Liberia, while he was serving as chief of a violent paramilitary unit during his father’s regime.

“This marks the first time the Justice Department has charged a defendant with the crime of torture,” Mrs. Fisher said.

According to the indictment, the victim — who was not identified — was abducted from his home and transported to various locations, ultimately arriving at the residence of Mr. Taylor, who was then president of Liberia. It said Belfast observed questioning of the victim at this location before he was transported to the residence of a co-conspirator for continued interrogation.

While at the residence, the indictment said, Belfast and others tortured the victim, including burning his flesh with a hot iron, burning various parts of his body with scalding water, repeatedly electrically shocking the victim’s genitalia and other body parts, and rubbing salt into the victim’s wounds.

Belfast is in federal custody in connection with a criminal charge of passport fraud, to which he pleaded guilty on Sept. 15. He admitted lying on his passport application by listing his father as “Steven Daniel Smith” rather than Charles Taylor or his stepfather, Roy Belfast. His sentencing is scheduled for today.

He was born in Boston in 1977 to a former girlfriend of his father.

Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit international rights group, said Belfast led the elite Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) from 1997 through 2002 when it is accused of being involved in torture, violent kidnappings, assaults, rape, beatings and burning people to death.

“Today’s first-ever charges for torture committed abroad are a crucial step by the U.S. government to ensure justice for this crime,” said Elise Keppler, Human Rights Watch counsel.

Belfast, who legally changed his name to Roy Belfast Jr. in 1990, is being prosecuted under a never-used 12-year-old statute that criminalizes torture and provides U.S. courts jurisdiction to hear cases involving acts of torture committed outside the United States if the offender is a U.S. national or is present in the United States, regardless of nationality.

If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Mr. Taylor, the former president, faces trial next year at The Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the murder, rape and mutilation of thousands of people during Sierra Leone’s bloody 10-year civil war. He has pleaded not guilty.

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