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Taylor wants his pension

Julius Kanubah in Monrovia/alJanuary 22, 2013

In a war crimes court in the Hague, former Liberian president Charles Taylor is appealing his 50-year jail term. He also wants the Liberian government to grant him his ex-president's pension.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Photo:Toussaint Kluiters, Pool/AP/dapd
Image: AP

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who insists he is innocent, is fighting for his 50-year jail sentence to be overturned or reduced. More than a dozen different grounds of appeal will be presented by his defense lawyers against his conviction and sentence. But prosecutors are appealing for his sentence to be increased.

Taylor was found guilty of backing Sierra Leone's Revolutionary Front rebels during that country's civil war last year.

In Liberia, debate about Taylor is heating up after he wrote a letter to the Liberian parliament demanding his annual pension entitlement as an ex-president from the Liberian government.

He told parliament that the Liberian government had so far refused to pay him his legitimate benefits as a former president of Liberia.

Quoting a Liberian pension law which contains provisions for pension benefits for former senior government officials, Taylor wrote that  "a former President of the Republic who shall honorably retired to private life and who is not in any other way gainfully employed by the Government, shall receive pension equal to 50 percent of the salary of the incumbent President." . 

Two amputees playing football Photo: Nic Bothma dpa
Sierra Leone's civil war left thousands without limbsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The letter also mentioned that the pension "shall not be less than $25,000 (19,000 euros) per annum."

Taylor's correspondence with parliament prompted mixed reactions among Liberians in Monrovia with some supporting him and others saying he was not entitled to any benefits.

But the Liberian parliament is set to open discussions about his demands.

In line with the law

Former Liberian President Moses Blah, who succeeded Taylor after his resignation, said Taylor's demand is in line with the law. He also confirmed that he himself receives pension benefits from the Liberian government.

"Yes, I receive money from the current president of Liberian. She is paying me $ 2,000 (1,500 euros) a month," Blah insisted.

"The law says I must have 50 percent from her salary added to my salary. They must pay this money to President Taylor," he added.

Clarence Farley, a Liberian legal expert, dismissed former President Blah's argument.  He said because of his resignation and his conviction on war crimes charges (pending appeal), Taylor does not deserve pension benefits.

"Mind you if you are a convict, by international laws, certain civil rights are diminished, you understand. You cannot be behind bars and expect taxpayers' to still be paying you. It is unfortunate," Farley said.

Let the Senate decide

Liberian Deputy Minister of Information Isaac Jackson says the spirit and intent of the pension law must be taken into account when considering any payments to a person in detention.

Former Liberian President Moses Blah (AP Photo)
Former Liberian President Moses Blah says Taylor's demand is in line with the lawImage: AP

"We all know for a fact, elementary concept in the law is that when people are found guilty, so to speak, there are certain rights that are curtailed or divested from those individuals," said Jackson.

"The intent of the law is to have former leaders of the country being in an honorable position when they leave office. And, whether or not the position in which Mr. Taylor is in now is an honorable position for which the Government should be giving him money is something for the Senate to decide," Jackson added.

Taylor resigned as Liberian president in 2003 and fled into asylum in Nigeria. In 2006 he was arrested and transferred to The Hague. He was convicted and given a 50-year jail term in 2012, pending appeal.