According to Jewel Taylor, Charles Taylor’s wife, the former Liberian president was looking forward to telling his side of the story after being transferred to The Hague. But it is unlikely that Taylor, when in exile in Nigeria, expected the latest chapter to involve him being turned over to stand trial for war crimes.
Taylor has proved to be a slippery customer in the past. Back in 1984, he was arrested in the US, charged with embezzling a million dollars of Liberian government funds.
But he escaped from jail and eventually turned up in Ivory Coast. This year he tried to flee Nigeria, but failed. He then decided the best form of defence was attack. He rejected the legitimacy of the UN-backed court in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, and said he was innocent.
Charles Taylor has been accused of involvement in war crimes both in his own country and in neighbouring Sierra Leone. In December 1989, he launched an armed uprising, with his National Patriotic Front of Liberia rapidly taking control of most of the country.
Then-president Samuel Doe was overthrown and murdered. The subsequent 14 years of civil war killed up to 200,000 people and forced more than a million from their homes. But the charges in The Hague refer to Sierra Leone.
Rebels there were known for cutting off civilians’ limbs or raping them, and using drugged-up child soldiers. Taylor allegedly supported the Revolutionary United Front by selling diamonds and buying weapons for them. Taylor was elected President of Liberia in 1997, two years after a peace agreement ended the civil war.
But he has remained a hugely controversial figure, and the Netherlands only agreed to host his trial because Britain said it would jail him if he was convicted.