Nigeria to Liberia: ‘Come and take President Taylor’

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(Rapaport…March 27, 2006) Sierra Leone’s war crimes tribunal told Nigeria to arrest Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor “immediately” due to press reports speculating that Taylor was planning an escape from Nigeria.

“The watching world will wish to see Taylor held in Nigerian detention to avoid the possibility of him using his wealth and associates to slip away, with grave consequences to the stability of the region,” the prosecutor of Sierra Leone’s war tribunal, Desmond de Silva, told the Associated Press.

De Silva described Taylor as one of the three most important wanted war crimes suspects in the world and said Taylor is accused of selling diamonds and buying weapons for Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels, who were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians during a 10-year war.

Taylor has been in Calabar, Nigeria, in exile since August 2003.

On March 26 Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo said, “The government of Liberia is free to take former President Charles Taylor into its custody.”

An international tribunal indictment charges Taylor with 17 counts of war crimes and the death of some 500,000 in Sierra Leone. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf wants Taylor sent directly to Sierra Leone, because Taylor is not wanted by Liberia courts.

Obasanjo’s spokesperson Remi Oyo told Reuters that Liberia’s Johnson-Sirleaf was told to “come and take President Taylor.”

“Our job is done…Taylor is not a prisoner here,” Oyo said.

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