MIAMI, Jan 10 – "Chuckie" Taylor, son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, was sentenced in a US federal court on Friday to 97 years in prison for torturing and killing people in the west African country.
Taylor’s mother told AFP that he would appeal the ruling in coming days.
Charles McArthur Emmanuel Taylor, 31, a US citizen also known as "Chuckie," was found guilty in October of crimes committed while he was the head of Liberia’s anti-terrorist services during his father’s 1997-2003 rule.
Judge Cecilia Altonaga said there was no reason for a reduced, 20-year sentence requested by the defense, instead insisting "1,164 months in prison is the appropriate sentence" for crimes of "universally condemned torture."
"It is hard to conceive of any more serious offenses against the dignity and life of human beings," she said.
Taylor’s mother Yolanda Emmanuel told AFP in a telephone interview that he is "going to appeal the sentence within the next ten days. Things are not being done fairly."
Emmanuel accused the US government of paying "many people to testify, and many of them were not even Liberians but from Sierra Leone.
"It is so unfair my son (is paying) for all the crimes committed in Liberia," she said.
Taylor had faced life in prison after the first trial under a 1994 US law allowing prosecution of American nationals charged with torture outside the United States.
Shackled and dressed in a brown prison jumpsuit, sporting a long beard and mustache, Taylor asked his victims to forgive him.
"Sorry to my brothers for what happened during the 14 years of war in Liberia. I will meet my obligation no matter what it would be," he said before hearing his sentence.
A US citizen born in Boston, Massachusetts, Taylor was arrested on March 30, 2006 while trying to enter the United States from Trinidad.
He was initially charged with passport fraud and pleaded guilty. On the day before his sentencing in December 2006, he was indicted on torture charges.
That indictment included graphic detail of brutal killings and tortures Taylor ordered, and in some cases personally carried out, between April 1999 and July 2003.
Witnesses testified that one victim was placed naked in a pit as stinging fire ants were shoveled over his body. Others testified that Taylor tormented victims with melted plastic, electric shocks, scalding water and beatings with sharp metal rods.
The US government had originally called for a 147 year sentence for Taylor.
A tough sentence for Taylor could mean that others in similar circumstances "will stop and will not engage in similar acts," said assistant US attorney Karen Rochlin.
"Chuckie’s" father, the notorious dictator Charles Taylor, is on trial for war crimes by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands.
The elder Taylor is the first African ex-head of state to appear before an international tribunal, where he faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The former president, whose trial began last year, is accused of controlling rebel forces in neighbouring Sierra Leone who went on a blood diamond-fuelled rampage of killing, mutilation and rape during the 1991-2001 civil war.
That conflict ravaged the country for 14 years and left as many as a quarter of a million people dead.
Last month a US lawmaker visiting Liberia claimed Washington had supported Taylor during his rule.
"Our government was supportive of some things that happened in the destabilization of this country," Congressman Benjamin Swan of Massachusetts told reporters on his visit to Monrovia.
Founded as a colony in 1822 by freed US black slaves, Liberia became a republic 25 years later, but kept close ties with the United States.