Charles Taylor says U.S. helped him break out of jail

One of the biggest mysteries of former Liberian president Charles Taylor’s career is how, exactly, he managed to escape from a Massachusetts county jail in 1985. With Taylor now on trial for war crimes at the Hague, many hoped that his testimony might shed light on this mystery. Taylor addressed the matter today but his ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.

One of the biggest mysteries of former Liberian president Charles Taylor's career is how, exactly, he managed to escape from a Massachusetts county jail in 1985. With Taylor now on trial for war crimes at the Hague, many hoped that his testimony might shed light on this mystery. Taylor addressed the matter today but his recollection of the events may have raised more questions than it answered:

One of the biggest mysteries of former Liberian president Charles Taylor’s career is how, exactly, he managed to escape from a Massachusetts county jail in 1985. With Taylor now on trial for war crimes at the Hague, many hoped that his testimony might shed light on this mystery. Taylor addressed the matter today but his recollection of the events may have raised more questions than it answered:

On the night of Sept. 15, 1985, he recounted Wednesday, a guard unlocked his cell at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility – where he was awaiting extradition to Liberia on embezzlement charges – and escorted him to a less-secure unit of the jail. Taylor then tied sheets together, climbed out an open window, and clambered over a fence before meeting two men he assumed were US agents, who whisked him to New York by car.

“I am calling it my release be cause I didn’t break out,’’ Taylor, 61, told his special war crimes court. “I did not pay any money. I did not know the guys who picked me up. I was not hiding’’ afterward.

The jail guard, he added, “had to be working with someone else.’’ 

The most popular conspiracy theory is that the C.I.A. helped him escape, a charge the agency vehemently denies. Liberian senator (and fellow war criminal) Prince Johnson repeated the theory in an interview with journalist Glenna Gordon for FP.

With Taylor revealing few specifics, it seems like the mystery will continue. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Africa

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