Monrovia – Mr. Henry Costa, leader of the Council of Patriots(COP) was due to be returned to Liberia today, following a request from the George Manneh Weah-led government, seeking extradition of its chief critic and provocateur who reportedly fled the country on Sunday. The process, FrontPageAfica has learned, has run into some legal and extradition treaty complications.
Liberian government sources confirmed to FPA late Tuesday that Mr. Costa would be returning to Liberia by way of Africa World Airlines(AWA) Wednesday morning from Freetown via Accra, Ghana. The Monrovia-bound AWA flight on which Mr. Costa should be on, departed Freetown a 9am this morning passing through Accra before arriving in Monrovia by 1pm.
FPA has learned that Mr. Costa who was being held at the Lungi International Airport was removed from there this morning and taken back to Freetown, meaning he will not be on the flight as expected.
The COP leader has reportedly solicited the help of a group of lawyers in Freetown to help prevent his extradition to Monrovia.
Lawyers En Route to LIS
Mr. Costa had reportedly traveled to Liberia’s next-door neighbors in hopes of connecting on a flight to the United States of America.
Cllr. Findley Krangar, accompanied by Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods are due to meet with the Liberia Immigration Services this morning in a bid to respond to a declaration of Mr. Costa as a “wanted man” by the LIS.
On Tuesday, the LIS issued a statement declaring that Mr. Costa would be declared a wanted man if he fails to show up for investigation today.
The COP leader is being investigated over his acquisition of Lassez Passer while being in possession of a valid passport. It’s alleged that the travel document he carries is forged.
Mr. Abraham Dolley, LIS Spokesperson, appearing on OK FM Tuesday, said Costa refused to show up for investigation after series of calls placed to his legal team.
Dolley said Costa has been given up to 9 am Wednesday, January 15, 2020 to appear, adding that failure to appear, Costa will be declare a wanted man by the Liberia Immigration Service.
Sources: Extradition Request ‘Not at Highest Level’
FrontPageAfrica has learned that the request for Mr. Costa’s return was not made at the highest level of government but rather between the Liberia Immigration Service and its counterparts in Sierra Leone.
FrontPageAfrica has learned that diplomatic channels are currently at worked between the two countries to work around an extradition of Mr. Costa albeit some complications.
Mr. Costa, in a Voice of America interview Wednesday expressed fears that he would be killed if the government in neighboring Sierra Leone honors a request from the Liberian government to have him returned Wednesday morning.
In an interview airing on the VOA’s Daybreak Africa Wednesday, Mr. Costa said he has committed no crime in Liberia for which he should be sent back. “I will be killed if I were to returned to Liberia. I would be killed, so the Sierra Leonean authorities will have to know that. I will make that clear to them when I speak with them in the morning,” Mr. Costa stated.
Mr. Costa, who says he is being held at the local police station at the Lungi International Airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone, praised the professional handling of his case by the Sierra Leone police.
Mr. Costa was initially scheduled to leave Liberia on Friday, January 10, but claimed that he was prevented by immigration officers whom he said had received instruction not to allow him to leave the country.
Costa said he had previously received information that the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) had been instructed to seize his passport, therefore, he refused to hand over his passport to them at the RIA on Friday.
The LIS released a statement Friday, clarifying that immigration officers never stopped Costa from traveling, rather, Costa voluntarily delisted himself after checking in with SN Brussels and asked for his luggage to be deplaned. “LIS says while it has received reports that Mr. Costa entered Liberia using forged travel documents, it did not arrest, stop nor accost him at the airport as he did not present himself to immigration officers,” the LIS release stated.
On Saturday, Mr. Costa told FrontPageAfrica that he was invited by the LIS to make a statement and was held at the LIS headquarters in Monrovia from 10:am to 2:15pm before any attention was paid him.
He explained that he was informed that although the laissez passer he presented upon arrival was authentic, the signature and stamp on it were forged. Therefore, his assistance was needed for the investigation as to who issued the booklet.
“They asked me to make a statement and then my lawyer, Cllr. Findley Kangar to sign for me. What does that mean? I’ve made arrangements to leave travel tomorrow but they said I cannot leave until the Minister of Justice had reviewed the report,” the COP leader told FrontPageAfrica.
Mr. Costa who vowed in a news conference Sunday that he and his COP were considering planning new rounds of protests against Weah government’s decision to sell nine oil blocks, explained to the VOA’s James Butty Wednesday, how and why he left Monrovia and ended up in Freetown.
Pulled Off US-Bound Travel
The crimes for which one can be extradited under the Sierra Leone act are: Murder, manslaughter, Counterfeiting and altering money or bank notes and uttering counterfeit or altered money or banknotes and other offenses relating to coinage and bank notes, forgery counterfeiting and uttering what is forged, counterfeited or altered, embezzlement, larceny, obtaining money or goods by false pretenses, offences by bankrupts under law relative to bankruptcy, fraudulent misappropriation and frauds by a bailee, rape, abduction, child stealing, burglary and housebreaking, arson, robbery with violence and bribery. ”
Said Mr. Costa: “I had attempted to board my flight to Istanbul, Turkey and then to the US. The immigration folks got alerted when I tried to check in and they called me up, very nicely – and they’ve been very nice, professional people. They raised some issue that there was information sent by the Liberian government or some source that I needed to not be allowed to board the flight. The immigration officers brought some police officers who accompanied me to the police station, they’ve been very nice to me. I’ve been held under protective custody. It’ not been seen as I’ve been arrested but of course my rights to move freely are curtailed but I’m not arrested but I am held under protective custody at the police station at Lungi.”
Mr. Costa explained that his main reason for leaving was because of an assassination threat. “On Sunday I received some help from some very top-level security in Liberia. They came to me and said, leave the country, there’s a plan to assassinate you. We know you can be stubborn but please do not be stubborn about this. We know about this plan and we do not want to sit here and allow it to happen. They facilitated my escape from the country. That is what happened, that is how I came to Sierra Leone. There’s element which have been hired, people closed to the President to assassinate me.”
Mr. Costa said two days before the protest which was supposed to be held on the 30th of December, he received a call and when he went to a meeting with folks from a very important diplomatic mission near Monrovia, he was informed of a plan to assassinate him. “So, I’ve been aware of that plan – and I’ve been protecting myself. There’s no case in the courts against me. I have not been charged with anything. But as I said, the Sierra Leonean authorities have been very reasonable, very pleasant and I hope that when I meet their bosses tomorrow, we would be able to square this thing out. There’s been no indictment, no prosecution, nothing, I have not committed a crime. So, that is why I made the move – I was warned to leave the country, my escape was facilitated by senior government security officials. I will not give their names.”
Treaty Points to Complications
Under the Sierra Leone Extradition Act of 1974, “no extradition shall be granted under any of the provisions of this Act if, in the circumstances of the particular case, it appears to the Attorney-General that it would be contrary to the public policy of Sierra Leone to do so.”
Under the Act, every fugitive criminal in Sierra Leone shall be liable to be apprehended and extradited in the manner provided by the Act. “All requests for the extradition of a fugitive criminal shall be addressed through the usual diplomatic channels to the Attorney-General who, if satisfied of the authenticity of the warrant in virtue of which the request for extradition is made, and that any other conditions on which, in the particular case, the extradition depends, appear to be fulfilled, may issue and endorse on, or attach to, the original warrant or request an Order as prescribed in the Form 1 in the Sixth Schedule, and the said Order shall be a sufficient authority to apprehend the fugitive criminal and bring him before a Judge or Magistrate.”
The crimes for which one can be extradited under the Sierra Leone act are: Murder, manslaughter, Counterfeiting and altering money or bank notes and uttering counterfeit or altered money or banknotes and other offenses relating to coinage and bank notes, forgery counterfeiting and uttering what is forged, counterfeited or altered, embezzlement, larceny, obtaining money or goods by false pretenses, offences by bankrupts under law relative to bankruptcy, fraudulent misappropriation and frauds by a bailee, rape, abduction, child stealing, burglary and housebreaking, arson, robbery with violence and bribery.
The treaty states that a person can also be extradited for sinking or destroying a vessel at sea, assault on board a ship on the high seas with intent to destroy life or do grievous bodily harm, revolt by two or more persons on board a ship on the high seas against the authority of the master; offense in connection with the Slave Trade committed on the high seas or on land, kidnapping, false imprisonment, perjury and subordination of perjury, malicious or willful damage to property, offences against legislation relating to dangerous drugs, offences against the person,
Under the treaty, any offence of a nature or category similar to any of the above-mentioned offenses which is for the time being punishable in Sierra Leone, any conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the above-mentioned offences and the counseling, procuring commanding, aiding or abetting of such.
Section Two states: “For the purposes of this section the expression “public policy of Sierra Leone” shall be taken to include —the interests of security, public order and good morals; and fundamental human rights and the principles of humane treatment generally accepted among civilized nations.
Last week, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) accused the Liberian Nation Police of breaking the rules of engagement by the use of force against “peaceful protester” when they dispersed them by the use of teargas and hot water cannon on Monday, January 6, 2020.
In a press statement, Atty. Bartholomew B. Colley, Acting chairman of the INCHR called for an investigation of the National Police over the use of excessive of force by state security against peaceful protesters last Monday.