Liberia: Is The New Prosecutor In Sable Mining Case Free of Conflict of Interest?
Monrovia – The protracted Sable Mining bribery trial involving several former and current government officials have generated controversies over the last couple of years, but recent conflict of interest issues have renewed concerns about the credibility of state prosecutors.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
Solicitor General-designate Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus and Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. Edwin Martin were constrained to recuse themselves from prosecuting the case after evidence showed that the pair were partners of the same law firm and served as private legal counsel for two of the defendants in the case.
Also, Justice Minister Musa Dean, who is also the Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, has come under scrutiny for his previous role as defense lawyer for Senator Varney Sherman – a main figure in the case. Dean has also stepped aside from the case although concern of his remote interference continues to loom.
A portion of the Code of Ethics of Lawyers state that “a lawyer represents conflicting interests when, in behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose.
“The obligation to represent the client with undivided fidelity, and not to divulge his secrets or confidences, forbids also the subsequent acceptance of retainers or employment from others in matters adversely affecting any interest of the client with respect to which confidence has been reposed.”
Cllr. Cephus has caught the headlines in the Month of June since his nomination for making statements akin to threats against free speech as well as his decision to step aside from the Sable Mining Case.
Now, the new lead state prosecutor Wesseh A. Wesseh is also being scrutinized, as many people following the proceeding express concern about his past and how it might impact the prosecution.
Cllr Wesseh, who is the Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, took on the case less than two weeks ago.
Wesseh has served as prosecuting attorney for eight years, serving as County Attorney for River Gee for six years. He says he is “not conflicted” and his role would not undermine the credibility of the case.
“I was never in the first trial; I was never in the case. I was in RiverGee (County) doing my prosecution job,” he said.
“The Minister and the Solicitor General was in the case and they cannot take part now so that makes me to be the neutral person.”
Wesseh bluntly told FrontPageAfrica in an exclusive interview that “the court will decide the case” and that he cannot “assure anybody whether it will be a conviction because people expect some individuals to be convicted”.
Wesseh inherited the case when it was remanded for new trial. And he claims to be reviewing the case file to understand all the legal issues.
But as the public express little confidence in the litigation of the case based on the perceived political nature of the case over the past three years, Wesseh says “going to court is not about winning a case”.
“Litigation process is about ensuring that justice is done so as much as I said we inherited the case, I don’t want to back track from what has been done previously.”
On June 19, the court accepted new pieces of evidence from the lead prosecution lawyer Wesseh after he drew the court’s attention to the Supreme Court’s August 27, 2018 mandate that called on the lower court to accept the evidence of the prosecution before the court. The evidence included emails, spreadsheets and witness testimonies.