Court Orders Charles Taylor Lawyer To End Boycott

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LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands (AP) - International justices ordered Charles Taylor's lawyer to apologize and end his boycott of the final stages of the former Liberian president's war crimes trial after the attorney accused the judges of putting their egos ahead of justice.

The judges of the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone issued a written "direction" telling Courtenay Griffiths to appear at a hearing Friday and apologize for storming out of court Tuesday or face unspecified sanctions.

The unusual written order underscored the friction between judges and the defense in the closing days of Taylor's three-year trial.

Friday is the last scheduled day of the trial before the three-judge panel retires to consider its verdicts, expected later this year.

Contacted by The Associated Press on Wednesday evening, Griffiths said he had not yet seen the order. When a reporter read it to him, he said he wanted to study it further before making a decision.

"Our overriding obligation is to the fair trial rights of Mr. Taylor," he said.

The landmark case is the first international prosecution of a former African head of state.

Taylor has pleaded innocent to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly fueling Sierra Leone's civil war by arming rebels in return for blood diamonds. The 1991-2002 war was notorious for its savagery, with rebels murdering and mutilating their enemies by hacking off their limbs with machetes.

Griffiths, a normally mild-mannered barrister, walked out of a hearing after judges rejected his written 547-page summary of the trial because he filed it 20 days too late. Taylor also refused to return to the courtroom after a break.

Both men boycotted the trial Wednesday. Outside the courtroom, Griffiths launched a blistering attack on the judges, accusing them of denying Taylor justice because they believed he was trying to manipulate the proceedings.

"It's about simply this - 'you're not running this court Mr. Taylor and we're going to show you who's in charge by rejecting your final brief,'" Griffiths told reporters outside the courtroom. "So this is about ego not justice, and I really don't see that this kind of personalized politics has any part to play in a court of law."

Griffiths argues he could not file the brief by the deadline because the court had not at that time ruled on eight defense motions. He said the late filing had not inconvenienced judges and he had asked in advance for more time.

"What prejudice has this court suffered by us filing our final brief 20 days late?" he said. "How have they suffered?"

Griffiths said the rejection of the final brief has "caused me to question the judicial capacity and independence of a couple of these judges."

He did not name them, but he was referring to Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty of Ireland and Samoan Judge Richard Lussick. The third judge, Julia Sebutinde of Uganda, has repeatedly issued dissenting views supporting Taylor's stance and again dissented in the court's threat to sanction Griffiths.

In a written appeal against the court's rejection of his final brief, Griffiths wrote it is "patently unfair for the judges to have before them the prosecution's road map to conviction, without being in a position to critically analyze the sufficiency of the evidence through the assistance of the defense's final brief."