Prosecutors at the human rights trial of former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor alleged Thursday that Christian televangelist Pat Robertson had lobbied the White House on Taylor’s behalf in return for a gold mining contract.
The controversial pastor and former Republican presidential contender met with then-President George W. Bush on Taylor’s behalf, prosecutors charged during cross-examination of Taylor in a Dutch courtroom, allegedly in return for a contract to mine gold in southeast Liberia — a contract they say that Taylor had no legal right to grant.
Robertson made widely publicized public statements in support of Charles Taylor in 2003. However, Chris Roslan, a spokesman for Robertson, denied to ABC News that Robertson ever discussed Taylor with Bush.
But on the stand, Taylor answered, “That is correct,” when asked if he had previously indicated that Robertson had met with Bush, and when asked if Robertson had volunteered to speak with high administration officials on his behalf.
Taylor is being tried in the Netherlands by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an independent judicial body under the auspices of the United Nations that receives a third of its funding from the U.S.
The gold deal went through in June 1999, with Robertson allegedly pumping $15 million dollars into the project.
Robertson’s company, of which he was president and sole director, was called Freedom Gold, Ltd. The agreement gave the Liberian government 10 percent equity interest in the company and Liberians could purchase at least 15 percent of the shares after the exploration period.
Roslan, Robertson’s spokesman, said Freedom Gold’s arrangement was similar to many American companies doing business in Africa at the time.
Taylor is charged with masterminding the atrocities, such as mass rape and amputation of civilians, in Sierra Leone (which shares a border with Liberia) in order to take advantage of the country’s vast natural resources, including diamonds.
Over the course of the two-year long trial, Taylor has grabbed headlines by firing his first attorney and converting to Judaism.
Judaism? Reverend Pat isn’t going to like that! Oh, and by the way, I think I speak for most Jews when I say we don’t want you, Mr. Taylor. Maybe you could consider…I don’t know…Scientology, perhaps?
Prosecutors have accused Taylor, who served as Liberia’s president from 1997 to 2003, of ordering his subordinates to murder and mutilate civilians, cut off their limbs, use women and girls as sex slaves, abduct adults and children, and force them to perform labor or become fighters to further his economic and political ambitions in the region. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In October, former lead prosecutor Stephen Rapp told ABC News that illegal diamond money was a major motivation for Taylor’s rape of his neighboring Sierra Leone: “It’s [Sierra Leone’s} rich diamond fields which financed the continued conflict, and according to our evidence, was part of the motivation for Taylor in going in there and carrying out a conflict that ranged across the 1990s with an increased level of atrocity against the civilian population.”