MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Former Liberian President Charles Taylor enjoys playing tennis with fellow inmates in The Hague and is worried about his personal safety once he is transferred to Britain to serve out his sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to new documents released by his lawyers.
Taylor has been on good behavior since his transfer to The Hague seven years ago, though he has spoken his mind to prison officials to object to changes in his living conditions, according to the documents given to The Associated Press. He also has a reputation for paying "particular attention to his deportment and appearance."
Taylor, 65, was arrested by the Special Court for Sierra Leone and transferred to The Hague in 2006. He received a 50-year sentence last year for sponsoring atrocities committed by the Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for "blood diamonds." The rebels became notorious for widespread killings and amputations during an 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.
Last Thursday, United Kingdom Justice Minister Jeremy Wright announced that Taylor would serve out his sentence in a British detention facility, despite Taylor's request that he be transferred to Rwanda.
In a letter dated that same day and included in the documents released by Taylor's defense team, the convicted war criminal detailed his fears for his personal safety and the distance from his family should he not be permitted to return to Africa.
He said there were "a significant number of individuals of Sierra Leonean background" in British prisons who might attack him because his name is "now associated with horrendous atrocities." He referred specifically to the case of Radislav Krstic, a Bosnian Serb war criminal who was assaulted by three inmates at a high-security prison in northern England in May 2010.
"In short, incarceration in the United Kingdom will likely — and very soon — lead to me being seriously injured or killed," Taylor said. Taylor also expressed concern about his family's inability to visit him, citing the higher costs and visa complications facing Liberians traveling to the U.K.
"The consequence of these factors is that if I am incarcerated in the United Kingdom some family members will see me much less than if I were to serve my sentence in Rwanda. Many of my children would not be able to see me at all," Taylor said.
A separate document states that Taylor has 15 children from various marriages, five of whom are younger than 10. He also has four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. A prison behavior profile sheds light on Taylor's life in The Hague, saying he has maintained good relations with guards and his fellow inmates, though he "does like to speak his mind" when he believes his living conditions are being adversely affected.
"Mr. Taylor does not take part in creative lessons, but takes the opportunity to regularly enjoy fresh air and tries to keep himself as fit as the regime will allow," reads the May 2012 profile prepared by Paddy Craig, the chief custody officer at the International Criminal Court detention center.
One of the sports he enjoys playing with his fellow detainees is tennis, an apparent holdover from his days in power. Among the features of his old mansion in Monrovia, White Flower, is a rundown tennis court where Taylor once played.
Associated Press writer Robbie Corey-Boulet contributed reporting from Dakar, Senegal.