LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands – Defense lawyers for former Liberian President Charles Taylor said the recommendation by prosecutors that he be imprisoned for 80 years is vindictive and excessive, according to a document released Friday.
Taylor has been convicted of 11 counts of aiding and abetting murderous rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war. Prosecutor Brenda Hollis last week said the lengthy sentence would "reflect the essential role Mr. Taylor played in crimes of such extreme scope and gravity." The court does not have the death penalty.
Defense lawyers said the recommendation is "manifestly disproportionate and excessive" for Taylor, who is 64.
In its written submission before a sentencing hearing next Wednesday, the defense team argued that "an appropriate penalty would be a number of years which falls short of what would be in real terms a life sentence."
Taylor was convicted April 26 of providing key support, including arms and ammunition to rebels in Sierra Leone, in return for "blood diamonds" — gems mined in conflict zones using slave labor. The rebels were notorious for hacking off hands or arms of their enemies to strike terror into communities.
His lawyers urged judges not to heap all the blame for Sierra Leone's deadly ..-year civil war on Taylor. The 11-year conflict ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead and many more survivors mutilated.
Judges, Taylor's lawyers argued, should not support "attempts by the prosecution to provide the Sierra Leoneans with this external bogey man upon whom can be heaped the collective guilt of a nation for its predominantly self-inflicted wounds," the lawyers wrote.
Taylor denied the charges throughout his lengthy trial and cast himself as a peacemaker and statesman in the West African region.
The brief, which will be discussed in court next week, also makes clear that Taylor intends to appeal his convictions.
Judges are scheduled to pass sentence May 30. Taylor will serve his sentence in Britain.