MIAMI — A federal jury convicted the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor Thursday in the first test of a 1994 American law that gives prosecutors the power to bring charges for acts of torture committed in foreign lands.
Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr., was convicted of torture, firearms and conspiracy charges. Authorities say he led a violent security force in Liberia while his father was president of the African nation. He faces life in prison, with sentencing set for Jan. 9.
Emmanuel, 31, was involved in killings and torture as head of an elite antiterrorist unit in his father's government also known as the "Demon Forces," prosecutors said. From 1999 to 2002 his job was to use his paramilitary soldiers to silence opposition to Taylor and train soldiers for conflict in neighboring African countries, according to trial testimony.
Emmanuel is a U.S. citizen who was born in 1977 in Boston to a girlfriend of Taylor, who was a college student there at the time. Emmanuel's mother later remarried and moved the family to Orlando.
Emmanuel did not testify in his own defense. His court-appointed lawyers suggested that many of the succession of African witnesses lied in a bid to win political asylum in the United States or to settle political vendettas against Taylor and his government.
The witnesses described Emmanuel's involvement in at least three killings and torture using electric shocks, lit cigarettes, molten plastic, hot irons, stabbings with bayonets and even biting ants shoveled onto people's bodies.
Miami U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the case, investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and FBI agents who traveled the globe finding victims and witnesses, will serve as a model for future prosecutors involving foreign torture allegations.
Charles Taylor is on trial before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly overseeing the murder, rape and mutilation of thousands of people during Sierra Leone's bloody 10-year civil war.