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Charles Taylor’s first day in Court at The Hague

4 July 2007 at 00:29 | 245 views

By Teddy Foday-Musa, Vanguard Correspondent at The Hague.

Mr. Charles Dahkpannah Ghankay Taylor made his first appearance at his third trial session at The Hague on the 3rd July 2007.

It however remains a puzzle as to whether his appearance is linked to the order slammed on him by the Trial Chamber to appear in court at all times. Mr. Taylor, who was flanked by two body guards, appeared 15 minutes late. He was looking not only healthy, but also smartly dressed. He had a blue suit on, with a white shirt under it and a yellow tie. Mr. Taylor was very humble and submissive. His composure in the courtroom was in direct contrast with the charges against him.

The court had been struggling to get Mr. Taylor not only to attend the first two trial sessions (4th & 25th-June), but also to get him to hear count 11 of his charges, and to enter a plea of “Guilty” or “Not-guilty” on count 5 of the charges. The Trial Chamber was victorious at this third trial session, as Mr. Taylor listened attentively to both counts being read. At the end of the day, he entered a plea of “Not-guilty” on count five (5).

Below I bring you a picture of what transpired in the courtroom.

Court Session:

· The 3rd July court session started at 9:00 am.

· The judge upon taking her seat noted the absence of the accused. “I note that the accused is not in court,” she said.

· She then turned towards the defence table, which was occupied by only a single member of the defence team, Mr. Charles Jalloh.

· The Principal Defender; Mr Nmehellie was conspicuously absent.

· She then spoke to Mr. Jalloh: “Mr Jalloh, could you please tell us why Mr. Taylor is absent?

· Charles Jalloh told the judge that he had just received a message that Mr. Taylor was on his way, but that he will be late.

· The judge reacted by telling Mr. Jalloh that the official starting time of every court session was 9.00 am.

· And that this has been communicated to both the defence and the prosecution teams.

· She then went further to say the following: “According to rule 60, I will take it that Mr. Taylor has waived his right to be here. However, he will be welcomed as soon as he comes”

· The judge made it clear to the defence counsel that he was at that point considered Taylor’s representative. Mr. Jalloh accepted.

The judge went on to give reasons as to why the Trial Chamber had decided to adjourn the court seating to the 20th August 2007. This is how she went about it:

· She read out the last Trial Chamber orders that were given out to both the Principal Defender and the Registry.

· She highlighted various issues that were geared towards Mr. Taylor getting a fair trial.

· She stated that against this backdrop, the defence and the Prosecution had come together in an agreement on certain things.

· As a result of this agreement, they have as a team issued a joint written order for action from the Trial Chamber.

Prominent among this written orders are the following:

· That the time given to the Principal Defender to assemble a good defence team for Taylor was too short.

· That the Duty Counsel (Principal Defender), has very little time to go through all the trial materials, so as to help him and his colleague to be a good defence team for Mr. Taylor as directed by the Trial Chamber.

· That the movement of witnesses on the side of the prosecution will prove difficult if they were to go by the short notice given by the Trial Chamber.

· That the cross-examination of witnesses will also generate problems which will be contrary to Mr. Taylor’s right of a fair trial.

Against this backdrop, the judge made it categorically clear that the Trial Chamber is in agreement with this joint written order by both the Prosecution and the Defence teams. She stressed the point that the Trial Chamber will not penalise Mr Taylor for the administrative negligence displayed by the registry. It was at this point that the arrival of Mr Taylor was announced to the judge.

The arrival of Mr Charles Taylor:

· He entered, flanked by two security guards.

· He greeted the judge by bowing half way.

· Then he took his seat.

· He took out his reading glasses and carefully put them on.

· Then he busily wrote down something.

Then the Judge did the following:

· She greeted the accused: “Good morning, Mr. Taylor.”

· Then she put it to him that he was late.

· At this juncture, one of the court officials came in with a defence on behalf of Mr. Taylor.

· She told the judge that Mr. Taylor’s late arrival was accidental.

· She said it was due to the escort police taking an alternative route with Mr Taylor in order to escape the early morning rush hour traffic.

Then the judge moved on with the following:

· She told Mr Taylor that counts five and eleven are going to be read out.

· And that he was supposed to enter a plea on count 5.

6· The reason being that count five had been amended.

Then Mr Jalloh requested that he would like to have audience with Mr. Taylor before he enters the plea. His request was centred on asking the judge to grant him reasonable time for an audience with Mr. Taylor, since he came in late.

· His request was granted by the judge.

· He was given 20 minutes to have audience with his client Mr. Taylor.

· The court then went into a 20 minute recess.

After the 20 minute recess:

· The Judge requested a court official to read out counts 5 and 11 to Taylor.

· Both counts were read.

· The judge asked Mr. Taylor to stand up.

· He stood up as requested, together with his two bodyguards.

· He was asked by the judge whether he understood clearly what was read.

· He answered “Yes, your honour.”

· Then the judge asked him what his plea to count 5 was.

· He pleaded NOT GUILTY.

· Then the judge announced: “I will enter a “Not-Guilty” plea on count 5.

Adjournment:

· Court was then adjourned to 20th August 2007, same place, same time.

Photo: Taylor, before his arrest.

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