Former Liberian leader Taylor jailed for 50 years

THE HAGUE — Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was jailed for 50 years on Wednesday for helping Sierra Leonean rebels wage a savage war, receiving a precedent-setting sentence from a special war crimes court.

Taylor, the first head of state convicted by an international court since World War II, had been found guilty of backing rebels who murdered, raped and mutilated tens of thousands of people in an 11-year war that ended in 2002.

Presiding judge Richard Lussick said there was no legal precedent by which to determine a sentence, but the term was intended to reflect Taylor's position of authority. Prosecutors had demanded 80 years.

"He was found responsible for aiding and abetting some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded history," he said, reading out the sentencing.

"Leadership must be carried out by example by the prosecution of crimes not the commission of crimes."

The sentence is intended to "underscore the gravity it attached to the betrayal of public trust."

Dressed in a blue suit and yellow tie, Taylor sat impassively through the roughly 45-minute reading at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Hands clasped in front of his mouth and his brow furrowed, Taylor shifted uneasily when the camera broadcasting proceedings settled on him.

Both sides are expected to appeal.

Reacting from Sierra Leone, deputy minister of information Sheka Tarawalie said: "Today the people of Sierra Leone, the victims, and ordinary observers inside and outside the country would believe that some kind of justice has been done."

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