Liberia: Case of Alleged Brutalization of Gay Men Suffers Setbacks; journalRAGE, Others Threatened
Monrovia – The case of the alleged brutalization and torturing of 27 men over their sexuality by Cheeseman Cole, ex-personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia, continues to suffer setbacks as there appears to be a grave lack of interest on the part of the Ministry of Justice to prosecute.
Cole has been released on bail filed by his lawyers.
The case, currently lingering on the docket of the Monrovia City Court, was arraigned for Thursday, November 11, but has been postponed again due to the unavailability of a vehicle to transport Cole’s accomplice, Emmanuel Tarpeh, from the Monrovia Central Prison.
And since the duo are scheduled to be trialed jointly, the magistrate of the Monrovia City Court, Cllr. Jomah Jallah contended that the Court cannot go into the preliminary hearings without the availability of Cole’s accomplice who is in the custody of the Ministry of Justice at the Monrovia Central Prison, according to the parties associating with the case.
The hearing has been assigned for Thursday, November 19, 2020.
The inability of the Ministry of Justice to make available Cole’s accomplice, as well as the lackadaisical posture adopted in the prosecution of the case, is a sharp contrast to a promise by the Attorney General, F. Musa Dean, for equal protection of all—regardless of sexuality—during the launch of the United Nations’ Liberia Country report on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Rights in Africa on Thursday, November 11 at a private resort.
“Under the constitution, all persons are equal and are entitled to equal protection under the law,” Minister Dean highlighted.
The re-arraignment is the second setback the case has suffered since Cole was forwarded to the Monrovia City Court to be prosecuted. The case was initially arraigned for hearing on Wednesday, November 4, but was later postponed when it was discovered it had not been assigned.
Cheeseman Cole is an ex-soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia who has been behind the alleged brutalization of 27 gay men as well as the disappearance of Winston Toe and Dominic Renner.
Using social media accounts of survivors of his alleged barbarity, the ex-soldier lured the men to his residence where they were tortured. He said in an interview with journalRAGE that his actions were a revelation by God and he has delivered 27 men via his proselytization.
“I am a servant of God and God spoke to me to get rid of all the gays in Liberia, especially Monrovia,” he said.
He was charged with Aggravated Assault, Criminal Attempt to Commit Murder, Possession, and Sale of Physical Objects for Lethal Use, Felonious Restraint, and Theft of Property by the Liberia National Police when six survivors of his alleged manhandling and maltreatment gave evidence to the Police during its investigation.
Interestingly, Cole was not charged for the disappearance of Winston Toe and Dominic Renner who has been missing since October 4 and September 24.
But in the Police Charge sheet and during the investigation of Cole, his accomplice, Emmanuel Tarpeh, admitted to seeing the two men who are still missing.
“Investigation further established through defendant Emmanuel Tarpeh’s testimonies that defendant Cheeseman Cole interacting with Defendant Dominic Youconjah Garduah and Winston Toe on a separate date and at the defendant’s residence where they were also tied, beaten and their money, as well as their phones, were taken away from them on different dates and time which evidence can be seen on the call log that was requested for.”
Quizzed over why the Police did not charge Cole for the disappearance of Winston Toe and Dominic Renner, Police spokesman, H. Moses Carter, in a telephone interview with journalRAGE said there is a window for the prosecution to add Cole’s charges.
He could not give an updated status on the case of the missing men but added that his office will follow up with the investigative team and updates would be provided in due course.
LGBTI persons continue to come under threats and record instances of assault, harassment, and hate speech, according to the 2019 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Liberia.
Last November, a group of people celebrating at a party in Sinkor were attacked and brutalized by community dwellers over unfounded suspicion it was a gay wedding.
Liberian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. Article 14.74, 14.79, and 50.7 [of the Penal Code of 1976] consider voluntary sodomy as a first-degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one-year imprisonment.
And though there has been no publicized case in recent years, harassment and discrimination abound.
The failure of the Ministry of Justice to produce Cole left Jim Jones (named changed to protect his identity), a survivor of Cole’s alleged brutality, with a different outlook on the country’s justice system.
“I felt bad because I was not given justice,” he said. “My case was not looked into because of money. I don’t think I’m the one to transport and bring the suspect from prison.”
journalRAGE, social worker ‘threaten’
While Cheeseman Cole is still on bail, it has not stopped him from inquiring about the whereabouts of those he believes were instrumental behind his arrest, according to J.T., an LGBT social worker.
J.T.,(name changed to protect his identity) played a key role in the arrest of Cole when he tipped of journalRAGE with the story which led to an investigation by this outlet thereby leading to his subsequent arrest.
“Since he came out of jail, he has been asking people about me. He called a friend of mine to ask whether he knows me and where I live,” he said.
This, he added, has heightened his sense of security and he does not leave his residence if he is not working. “I am very afraid. This man is a trained soldier and I’m afraid he could one day lead a gang to my house and kill me,” he furthered.
J.T.’s apprehension is also shared by the News Curator of journalRAGE, Gboko Stewart, who revealed he received a call on a private number.
“It was two weeks ago and when I answered the call, the person said, ‘you, I will deal with you,'” he said.
“Two weeks ago I got that call—I did not know he had been granted bail until my source in the army tipped me off that Cole had been freed and some colleagues of his had seen him on Broad Street.”