Charles Taylor's war crimes trial was put on hold indefinitely Friday after judges allowed his lawyer to appeal their refusal to accept a written summary of the defense case.
The closing stages of Taylor's three-year trial for fueling Sierra Leone's brutal 1991-2002 civil war were thrown into turmoil this week when Taylor and his lawyer Courtenay Griffiths boycotted a hearing Tuesday.
Griffiths called the proceedings "a farce" after judges at a U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone rejected Taylor's final written summary of the case because it was filed 20 days too late.
"I think reason is finally beginning to prevail," Griffiths told reporters outside the courtroom after judges allowed the appeal. "We are on track now hopefully to bring this trial to a proper ending."
The judges had been due to close the trial Friday and begin deliberating their verdicts, but it has been suspended until the appeals chamber issues its decision on the closing brief — a process likely to take weeks.
Taylor has pleaded innocent to 11 charges including murder, torture and using child soldiers for allegedly arming and supporting rebels notorious for hacking off the limbs of their enemies.
Prosecutors say that from his seat of power in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, he backed Sierra Leone's Revolutionary Front in return for "blood diamonds" illegally mined using slave labor.
Testifying in his own defense, Taylor has cast himself as a statesman who attempted to broker peace in West Africa.
Griffiths had been ordered to apologize for storming out of court Tuesday, but did not speak at Friday's hearing. Another member of Taylor's defense team, Terry Munyard, asked for two weeks to hire another lawyer to represent Griffiths in his heated dispute with two of the three-judge panel.
Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty scheduled a hearing for Feb. 25 to discuss whether Griffiths should apologize.
Taylor is the first African head of state to stand trial at an international war crimes court.
A final ruling is expected later this year in a case that is being followed closely in West Africa, Europe and the U.S. because of the political and security implications.
A U.S. diplomat has warned that if Taylor, the first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, is acquitted or gets a light sentence, his return to Liberia could "tip the balance in a fragile peace."