THE HAGUE - Former Liberian President Charles Taylor said on Wednesday witnesses had been threatened and paid to testify against him in a trial that found him guilty of crimes against humanity, and described the international court system as a tool of the West.

Taylor - the first head of state to be found guilty by an international tribunal since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg - told the war crimes court in The Hague that Washington had used the case to achieve regime change rather than justice.

"Witnesses were paid, coerced, and in many cases threatened with prosecution if they did not co-operate," Taylor said at a sentencing hearing where his defense team hopes to minimize a possible 80-year jail term.

Taylor's trial made international headlines, partly because of the grisly accounts of murders and mutilations, many committed by child soldiers, and partly because of Taylor's alleged gift of 'blood diamonds' - gems plundered from Sierra Leone to fund the war - to supermodel Naomi Campbell who was called as a witness for the prosecution.

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