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Liberia: Opposition ANC, Lawyer Accuse Govt of Holding “Political Prisoners”

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Monrovia – The opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) of Liberia has expressed indignation over government’s reported crackdown on opposition figures including students, terming the holding of the students as “political prisoners.” This sentiment was also echoed by the lawyer, Cllr. Findley Karnga, representing the legal interests of the 21 young people, including two students. 

In particular, ANC said they are concerned and alarmed by what they termed “the growing pattern of harassment, threats and state-sponsored intimidation against its member and lawmaker, Hon. Yekeh Kolubah.” 

“We fear for the life and safety of Hon. Kolubah and his family. ANC condemns these acts and urges the government to immediately halt its aggression against Hon. Kolubah. The pending arrest of Hon. Kolubah and the plan to detain him, as well as the current detention of students are the beginning of the slide towards Liberia having political prisoners.”

ANC believes that Kolubah is being targeted for his political views and sharp criticisms against the corruption of President George Weah and the CDC government. 

“We are seriously concerned about the safety of Hon. Kolubah and his family, especially the emotional and psychological toll inflicted on the little children in his home,” said Senator Daniel Naatehn, National Chairman of ANC, in their press statement. 

According to ANC, they have seen no clear evidence linking Rep. Kolubah to the alleged crime, and believe the police has “concocted, doctored and coerced evidence” to link the Montserrado County District 10 lawmaker to a crime he did not commit; adding: “for the sole purpose of humiliating and silencing him. Circumstances surrounding the incident point to credible exonerating facts in favor of Hon. Kolubah. Hon. Kolubah was neither on the crime scene, nor ordered its commission. No suspect or eye-witness, other than the victim, has linked Hon. Kolubah to the crime. Yet, the police ignored all the facts, doctored evidence and coerced the victim to implicate Hon. Kolubah.” 

The opposition political party accused the police that in furtherance of their alleged ploy to implicate Kolubah, who is an Executive Member of their party, he (Yekeh) was denied the right to be presented with the evidence against him, and was not allowed to confront his accuser, a right guaranteed by Article 21 (h) of the Liberian Constitution. 

“Similarly, the ANC has described, as unacceptable, the selective application of law enforcement by the Liberia National Police to detain its partisan, Hon. Kolubah, based on the unsupported testimony of a victim – that Hon. Kolubah ordered the victim’s flogging, while at the same time, the police has rejected and dismissed similar testimony of another victim, Boye Cooper, who was allegedly ordered flogged and wounded with deadly weapon on the orders of ruling party lawmaker Acarous Gray.” 

The party states that Cooper has presented images from CCTV, and countless eyewitnesses have supported his assertions, yet the Liberia National Police is busy covering up or downplaying Gray’s crime.

“We therefore reiterate our call for equal justice for all and to raise concerns about the era of Liberia having political prisoners,” ANC stated. 

Monrovia City Court

Meanwhile, the Monrovia City Court Judge, J. Kennedy Peabody, has transferred the case involving the 21 detained alleged rioters, who were arrested in connection to the Wednesday June 5, protest in Monrovia to the Criminal Court ‘A’.

Judge Peabody transferred the case without the consent of the defense counsels. The defense was prepared to argue their clients’ case based on a notice of assignment issued by the Judge.

Magistrate Peabody had issued a notice of assignment to the parties involved in the case to appear before him for hearing into the matter at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 11.

Magistrate Peabody’s decision triggered the defense lawyers to file a ten-count petition against the Judge for “illegal action”. 

In the defense petition, they alleged that they applied for and a notice of assignment was issued and served for the hearing of the case on June 11 but to their utmost surprise, they were informed by Judge Peabody that he has given the case file to the prosecution to draw an indictment.

“The counsels for petitioners/defendants appeared before the Respondent Magistrate, His Honor J. Kennedy Peabody, and applied for assignments for hearings, and notice of assignment was served for hearing on June 11, 2019 at 9 AM.”

Petition adds: “Upon arrival at the court this morning, the Respondent Magistrate informs counsels for petitioners/defendants, that he has given the case file to the County Attorney to prepare indictment, after seven days of being detained under the orders of the Respondent Magistrate.”

The defense counsels further stated in the petition that the procedure adopted by Magistrate Peabody does not have any evidence or record of any application of the County Attorney for the transfer.

They further claimed that they were not notified about the prosecution’s application for the transfer of the case. 

They also alleged that the action of Judge Peabody deprives the petitioners/defendants the opportunity for preliminary examination and is in violation of Chapter 12 of the Criminal Procedure Law, especially when the judge has served a notice of assignment for hearing into the case.

According to the defense team, the giving of the court’s files to the County Attorney where they have not been made to answer is a violation of section 12.4 of the Criminal Procedure Law. 

The defense counsels pray the court (Criminal Court A) to reverse the decision of Magistrate Peabody and grant the defendants further relief deemed legal and equitable.

But according to Magistrate Peabody, the prosecution filed a submission before the court for the transfer of the case prior to the issuance of the notice of assignment.

Augustine T. Tweh 0775524647 [email protected] contributed to this report.

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