LEIDSCHENDAM, Feb 8 – Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor\’s lawyer stormed out of his war crimes trial in The Hague on Tuesday in protest at judges\’ refusal to accept his late filing of a document.
"We do not feel that it would be appropriate for us to take part," Taylor\’s lawyer Courtenay Griffiths told judges before rushing out of the courtroom, ignoring an order to sit down.
Taylor\’s trial on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone in the 10 years to 2001, entered its final phase on Tuesday with the prosecution\’s oral closing arguments.
But Griffiths said judges\’ refusal to accept the defence\’s final, written brief 20 days beyond the deadline, rendered the proceedings unfair.
"It is our duty to withdraw" pending a appeal ruling against that decision, said Griffiths, announcing that both he and his client intended to leave.
Prosecutor Brenda Hollis accused Taylor and his legal team of seeking to manipulate the court.
"There is no right of any accused to determine if and when and under what circumstances they will abide by rulings of the court," she said.
"The accused is not attending a social event, he may not RSVP."
Judge Teresa Doherty ordered Griffiths to sit down, warning that he risked being found in contempt of court if he refused.
"The trial will continue," she said, as the lawyer rose to his feet. "There have already been too many delays in the trial. The accused and counsel will remain and hear the submissions of the prosecutor as scheduled."
Griffiths stormed out, telling journalists outside the court he did so out of a duty to protect his client\’s interests.
"We have decided not to participate in these closing arguments because as far as we are concerned it is a complete farce," he said.
"By being in court I am giving a certain legitimacy, a certain credibility to the proceedings that it does not deserve."