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Taylor war crimes trial resumes

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  • NEW: Taylor makes court appearance
  • First witness was Canadian author Ian Smillie, an expert on "blood diamonds"
  • Taylor is accused of fueling bloody civil war in Sierra Leone
  • He has pleaded not guilty to the charges
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appeared in court Monday at the resumption of his war crimes trial, six months after boycotting the opening session and calling the trial a "charade."

He did not speak.

The first witness Monday was Canadian author Ian Smillie, who is considered an expert in the trade of blood diamonds, so called because funds from their sale fuel African rebel groups. He was testifying for the prosecution, explaining how the trade in 'blood diamonds' exacerbated the conflict.

Taylor, who was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery and violence, and enslavement. He also faces five counts of war crimes, including acts of terrorism and torture, and one count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Taylor is accused of fueling a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone that led to widespread murder, rape, and mutilation. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The war, which involved riches from the diamond trade, was fought largely by teenagers who were forced to kill, given addictive drugs to provoke violent behavior, and often instructed to rape and plunder.

The United Nations and the Sierra Leone government established the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2002. The United Nations decided to move Taylor's trial from Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, to the Hague last year because of concerns that Taylor's presence would harm stability and security in the region.

The trial opened in June 2007, but Taylor boycotted the first session, saying he could not expect a fair trial. In a letter read out to the court by his defense counsel, Kerim Khan, Taylor said he could not take part in what he called "this charade that does injustice to the people of Liberia and the people of Sierra Leone."

In the same letter, Taylor also dismissed Khan from the case and asked to represent himself. British lawyer Courtenay Griffiths now leads Taylor's defense team.

Taylor is the first African head of state to go on trial for war crimes before an international tribunal.

Taylor was president of Liberia -- where he is also blamed for fueling a lengthy civil war -- until 2003, when he was forced from office under heavy international pressure, much of it from the United States.

He lived in exile in Nigeria until Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo decided, under political pressure, to hand him over for the tribunal.

It is expected that the trial will last at least two years, with any appeal likely to extend proceedings beyond that. The hearing is being screened in Freetown, where the public can watch it at the national court. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About War CrimesSierra LeoneCharles TaylorLiberia

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