Saturday, June 17, 2006
By Norman Smith, BBC News, Freetown
Sierra Leone's leader says it would be "very helpful" if the UK were to jail ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor if he were convicted of war crimes..
He faces the charges in the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, which requested his trial be transferred to The Hague for security reasons.
But the Dutch government said it would only accept this if any ensuing jail term was served in another country.
Mr Taylor is accused of backing rebels in Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
Sierra Leonean President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah told the BBC that while people in Sierra Leone believed that justice would be done, they were frustrated by the amount of time it was taking to complete the trial.
Mr Taylor is being held as a prisoner at the Special Court in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, with eight other men accused of being primarily responsible for many of the atrocities committed during the civil war.
Mr Kabbah said he did not know whether the British government would agree to accept Mr Taylor as a prisoner but that it would be "very helpful" if they did.
Officials at the Special Court have expressed unease about allowing Mr Taylor to stand trial in Freetown because of the possible security risks.
Privately they fear his appearance in court could prompt a rescue attempt or even lead to renewed fighting in Sierra Leone.
Special Court registrar Lovemore Munlo said that the court had secured the agreement of the Dutch government to allow Taylor's trial to be transferred from Freetown to The Hague.
"But they want to be assured that immediately the trial is finished, whether he is convicted or acquitted, he will not stay a day longer in The Hague," Mr Munlo said.
"The only reason they will allow us to take him there is for the purpose of trying him."
Mr Munlo confirmed that the British government had been asked if Mr Taylor could serve any sentence in a British prison.
It is understood three other countries have also been asked to take Mr Taylor. They are Sweden, Austria and Denmark, which has already said it will not accept him.
Privately, government officials in London have confirmed that they are considering the request.
However it is understood that there is concern among ministers that the move could prove politically difficult because of the recent row in the UK over the failure to deport foreign prisoners.
E-mail this to a friend.