Liberia: Jestina Taylor Ghartey Released to Human Rights Advocates Amid Angry Protest
Monrovia – Jestina Taylor Ghartey, 48, who was reportedly drugged, raped and tortured by unknown men, has been released from the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital amid mass protest on Thursday.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
Before her release, protesters had converged, set up roadblocks and demanded that she be released without the interference of the Police.
There was a scuffle between police officers and protesters which resulted in the injury of one officer and a protester.
The protest turned violent when protesters blocked the Tubman Boulevard intersection with the road leading to Catholic-run St. Joseph Hospital in Congo Town.
The roadblock stalled the movement of vehicles. When the Police asked the protesters to leave the road they resisted, demanding the release of Jestina.
It turned into a scene of stone-throwing by both Police officers and protesters. The police then began splashing hot water from its tank truck to disburse the crowd.
John O. F Karngar a protester shouted: “This government is not serious and if they continue like this it will be sadder for them, why arrest someone who is not well, all we want is to ensure that she is released and go for her interview.”
Another protester Grace Jackson added: “This could be any other woman; I am so concern about her health. What is the need of arresting her when she is discharged by the hospital, we will not leave this place until she is free and no police will have anything to do with her.”
Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillon who had gone on the scene asked the angry protesters to abandon the protest as they negotiate with state security for the release of Jestina.
“The Police say Jestina is a person of interest and they cannot free her now but we are going to discuss with other stakeholders to ensure that she is released today,” Dillon said told the protesters.
“All I asked of you all is to remain calm and let us make sure that she is release without Police arresting or harassing her.”
Adama Dempster, Human Rights Advocacy Platform; Francis Greaves of the Civil Society, Patrick Sudue, Inspector General of the Liberia National Police and other officials of Government and Civil Society held meeting with the administration of the hospital before the release of Jestina.
According to Dempster, the Police said they wanted to investigate Jestina for the allegations she made in her complaint.
“This could be any other woman; I am so concern about her health. What is the need of arresting her when she is discharged by the hospital, we will not leave this place until she is free and no police will have anything to do with her.”Grace Jackson, A Protestor
He said Jestina was not in a good state of mind to explain to investigators, officers recommended that she signed a waiver sheet.
“The police informed us that Jestina is not charged for any crimes; there is no record for her to be held under hostage or whatsoever. What has happened is that they have had an initial complaint from her to investigate,” said Dempster.
“But as the police they are under obligation to investigate, but under the circumstance, she is not in the right mind for her to be investigated. So, they provided form for us to sign for her to waive her rights to the police and on her behalf the human rights signed the waiver.”
He disclosed that Jestina is under the human rights organizations’ protection and will not be interrogated or arrested by state authority.
“We will ensure her safety the United States Embassy cannot open for us at this time so we have asked that it be rescheduled for Tuesday next week,” he said.
US Warns Its Citizens
Meanwhile, as the protest ensued, the United States Embassy issued an alert of “civil disturbance” asking all its citizens to avoid the area and keep a low profile.
“The US Embassy is aware of reports that Tubman Boulevard is blocked in both directions in Congo Town, due to civil disturbance. There is traffic congestion and a heavy police presence in the area,” the Embassy said in a statement.
The US Embassy statement furthers, “All US citizens are advised to avoid civil disturbances and to monitor local media to remain informed of the developments as they occur.”
Protest ‘Undermines Our Democracy’
Later, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe said at a press briefing in Monrovia that the protest and road block was anti-democratic.
“What happened today on Tubman Boulevard where the traffic was being obstructed undermines our democracy,” he said.
Minister Nagbe claimed that Jestina Taylor was not arrested by the Liberia National Police (LNP) but was only being protected based on her complaints.
“You bring a complaint to the government; you say you are assaulted; you are raped, the government has the obligation to check and determine. How do we do that? We took her to the hospital for thorough examination and the medical records will tell us,” he said.