AN African warlord serving 50 years in a British jail for war crimes is begging to be sent abroad – because he is terrified of coronavirus.
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor reckons he is at greater risk of catching it because his prison is overcrowded and he hasn’t been given a mask.
And the brutal ex-rebel leader – found guilty of murder, rape and recruiting child soldiers – is pleading to be sent to a “safe third country” to continue his sentence.
Taylor, 72, ended up in Durham’s Frankland Prison after the UK government agreed to take him when he was convicted in 2012.
He is serving his sentence alongside criminals such as Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Soham killer Ian Huntley and Milly Dowler murderer Levi Bellfield.
He reckons the top security jail poses a high risk of catching coronavirus so he applied to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to request a move abroad.
His lawyer Essa Faal said: “Mr Taylor has not been provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks and has no statistics on whether that prison facility has sufficient hand washing areas and isolation rooms for all its 900 inmates.”
Taylor reckons the health crisis means the UN rule that “no one in prison should fear for his or her physical safety" is not being met.
His application added: “A substantial number of inmates in prisons and detention centres across the United Kingdom are reported to have contracted the disease" and people in overcrowded areas and older persons are "among the highest and most vulnerable categories to the disease."
He added that he was "extremely concerned about his physical safety and his health in general in light of the current widespread nature of the coronavirus situation in the UK".
And he said his fears of contracting it have been "aggravated after it was confirmed that two of the prison inmates in HM Frankland Prison have been infected" and there have been "reports of deaths of prison inmates in prison/detention centres across the UK.”
A transfer is necessary to “avert a looming disaster on his life if he were to contract the Coronavirus”, it was said.
The court was told that Frankland actually has an operational capacity of 854 with a current population of 840.
All prisoners, including Taylor, are in single cells.
His application, filed in June, was dismissed by a judge, Justice Teresa Doherty, earlier this month.
She said: “Request for a transfer demonstrates a woeful lack of grasp of the reality the world community faces from the threat of COVID-19.”
She added that the "World Health Organisation has not declared any place in the world safe from COVID-19.”
It is not known if Taylor will try and appeal the ruling.
The former Liberian rebel leader was convicted of war crimes for helping to fuel the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
In return for blood diamonds he gave weapons to rebel groups who specialised in hacking the arms and legs off victims in an 11-year conflict that left 50,000 dead.
The judge at his trial said he was guilty of some of “the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history".
Rebels supported by Taylor forced a woman to carry a bag of human heads that included those of her children while another had her eyes pulled out after a gang rape to prevent her from identifying her attackers.
His men also cut open pregnant women to settle bets as to the sex of their unborn child.
At his trial it was said that Taylor gave blood diamonds to supermodel Naomi Campbell after a dinner party they both attended.
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She denied knowing the stones came from Taylor.
The Ministry of Justice said there were currently no cases among prisoners at Frankland although three members of staff had tested positive this month and were now self-isolating.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: “The court refused Charles Taylor’s application.
“There has been no outbreak at HMP Frankland and our strong early measures help save lives and limit coronavirus in our prisons.”
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