Police Hold American in Sierra Leone for Taking War-Crimes Tribunal Pics

An American man was arrested for taking photographs of the U.N.-Sierra Leone war-crimes tribunal compound where ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor and other defendants are held, officials said Wednesday.

Police detained the man May 2 after questioning him about why he had flouted rules against taking pictures of the court complex, where 11 war-crimes suspects are held, top police official Musa Bockarie Lappia said.

No charges have been filed against the man, Lappia said. He did not identify the man by name or give any further details.

The U.S. Embassy said it was informed of the man's detention, but had no other information.

Court officials had no comment.

Taylor was transferred to the court's custody in March after Nigerian police caught him trying to flee his exile there. Now the U.N.-backed tribunal is seeking to try the feared former warlord outside the region he helped lead into conflict, saying his mere presence in West Africa was destabilizing.

Taylor escaped from an American prison in the 1980s, reportedly by shimmying down a rope made out of knotted sheets. Many in West Africa fear Taylor's allies could try to help him break out of the high-walled, maximum-security compound where he was being held in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown.

Taylor faces 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his alleged backing of Sierra Leonean rebels who terrorized victims by chopping off their arms, legs, ears and lips. Taylor, a former rebel leader who became Liberia's president before leaving power and fleeing into exile in 2003, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The tribunal has requested that Taylor's trial be moved from Sierra Leone to The Hague for fear that the former warlord could still spark unrest.

The Sierra Leone-based Special Court would still conduct the trial, but The Hague would provide a courtroom and a jail cell pending trial.

The Netherlands has agreed — but only if the arrangement is endorsed by a U.N. Security Council resolution, The Hague-based International Criminal Court agrees to provide the venue and Taylor leaves immediately after the trial, even if he is acquitted.

No country has yet agreed to take in Taylor, and the court proceedings have stalled.

The Sierra Leone Special Court was established by the United Nations and Sierra Leone after that country's 1991-2002 civil war. A total of 13 men were indicted by the court's prosecutors; Taylor is the most prominent in custody.