Typhoid delays landmark Liberia war crimes trial

Gibril Massaquoi is accused of murder, rape, torture, enslavement and using child soldiers
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Landmark war crimes hearings in Liberia and Sierra Leone have been delayed as two judges have typhoid, Finnish police said on Friday.

A Finnish court gathered testimony in Liberia between February and April as part of a case against Gibril Massaquoi, an ex-rebel commander accused of committing war crimes in both West African countries.

The 51-year-old has lived in Finland since 2008, but was arrested there in March last year after a rights group investigated his war record.

Around a quarter of a million people were killed between 1989 to 2003 in Liberia, in a conflict marked by brutal violence and rape.

Massaquoi, a Sierra Leonean national, is a former senior member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a Sierra Leone rebel group that also fought in Liberia and amputated the limbs of thousands of people.

Finnish court documents seen by AFP detail a litany of accusations of abuse committed or ordered by Massaquoi in Liberia, including murder, rape, torture, enslavement and using child soldiers.

The Finnish court's unusual step to travel to the country to interview witnesses marked the first time war crimes hearings have been heard on Liberian soil.

The court was also due to hold hearings in neighbouring Sierra Leone starting from late April but proceedings have been repeatedly delayed.

Kerttu Henriksson, a spokeswoman for Finland's national bureau of investigation, said that two judges had typhoid, causing the delay.

Hearings are due to resume on Tuesday, she added.

eml/ach

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