Liberia’s Taylor to be called witness in arms case


A court hearing the case of a Dutch businessman accused of smuggling arms to Liberia said it would call the country’s former president Charles Taylor, currently on trial for war crimes at The Hague, as witness.

The court in Den Bosch agreed on Tuesday to a request by the defence of Guus Kouwenhoven, who is accused of smuggling arms to Taylor’s government between 2001 and 2003 in contravention of UN sanctions, to call on Taylor at a date to be determined.

A Dutch court sentenced Kouwenhoven in 2006 to eight years in jail after finding him guilty of the smuggling charges but acquitted him of war crimes for lack of evidence. An appeals court then acquitted Kouwenhoven of arms dealing in 2008, Reuters reports.

But last year the Dutch Supreme Court quashed the lower court’s decision to acquit Kouwenhoven and ordered a new appeal hearing. The next pre-trial hearing in the process is scheduled for March 1 at the court in Den Bosch.

Known as “Big Gus” in Liberia, the former executive of the Oriental Timber Corp. and the Royal Timber Co. was accused of selling arms in exchange for timber concessions in Liberia, dubbed the “blood timber” trade by campaigners.

The charges stem from Liberia’s civil war that started in 1989, spilled across borders, killed a quarter of a million people and spawned a generation of child soldiers.

Taylor has been on trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague since June 2007, facing 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A judgement in his case is expected this year.