Liberia: The Cummings Trial – Prosecution or Persecution? Cherie Blair Wades In!￼
The ongoing criminal trial of ANC leader Alexander Cummings has seen many twists and turns with the latest being the arrival in Liberia of Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
By John H.T. Stewart, Contributing Writer
She is allegedly a close friend to former President Sirleaf. During President Sirleaf’s tenure, scores of young British professionals, some of them barely out of their teens were deployed in the various ministries.
They were brought to Liberia under the rubric of the Tony Blair Foundation where to the dismay of seasoned Liberian professionals, they decided policy.
So just draw the dots, considering President Sirleaf’s letter to ECOWAS leaders to have the criminal lawsuit against Cummings quashed.
That having apparently failed, we now have Cherie Blair in country to read the Queen’s edict declaring the Liberian Judiciary corrupt, a fact which we all know, and declaring the Cummings politically motivated and a travesty of justice which appears not be the case.
But, she is here, according to Mr. Cummings, to help clear his reputation of criminal charges contained in what he says is a bogus lawsuit accusing him of forgery.
Cummings maintains that he is a victim of conspiracy and he insists that President Weah, Justice Minister Musa Dean, Solicitor-General, Syrrenius Cephus, former Vice President Joseph Boakai, Minister of State Nathaniel McGill and All Liberian Party(ALP) leader Benoni Urey are all part of this alleged conspiracy.
Mr. Cummings says he is being persecuted because he is the most formidable candidate in the race with everything it takes to defeat President Weah in the 2023 elections.
His claims however appear far-fetched given his dismal performance in the 2017 elections which saw him garnering a distant fifth(5th) place.
Apparently this is exactly what Cherie Blair hopes to establish- that Cummings is indeed being persecuted and not prosecuted.
From what it appears, many media institutions have tended to run away with this narrative, spinning stories either portraying Mr. Cummings as the most qualified candidate or that he is being persecuted by the GoL.
Whatever the case, what appears largely absent from media narratives is the fact that the case of forgery now before the Court was filed against Mr. Cummings by Mr. Benoni Urey and not by the state.
More importantly, this case should rightly be considered sub judice, meaning that discussions on the merits or demerits of the case should be or is strictly prohibited, according to law.
To the contrary, it appears that the case is being tried in the media when it should rightly be tried in the Courts. On Monday, May 9, 2022, for example, Mr. Cummings appeared on a local radio talkshow(FM 107.1) hosted by T. Max Jlateh.
In discussions during the show, Mr. Cummings reaffirmed that Mrs. Cherie Blair was here to conduct an independent forensic investigation and provide expert opinion on the authenticity of the documents submitted to NEC.
Mr. Cummings also declared that the document submitted to NEC was done in color but was printed on a black and white printer.
Why was this so remains a mystery known perhaps only to a select and privileged few.
According to him this by no means suggests that the documents are mere photocopies which is the contention of the prosecution.
Former Vice President Boakai who insists that he would testify only to an original document and not a photocopy has so far not rescinded his decision to the best of publically available information.
But this ongoing trial appears to have drawn the NEC into the crosshairs of adverse public opinion following disclosures that the CPP document was submitted to NEC under the signature of Senator Daniel Naateng as head of the CPP.
It was also disclosed that the document was submitted without notarization. It was retrieved and returned to NEC four (4) days later as a notarized document.
And not surprisingly claims of tampering and forgery arose in its wake.
Why? Because submission to NEC of un-notarized official documents is completely out of regular and accepted practice and procedure according to former NEC Commissioners James Fromayan and Jonathan Weedor.
They maintain that NEC has the duty and obligation to ensure that all Original documents submitted to it should be subject to rigid scrutiny to ensure that they are compliant with all requirements.
The fact that NEC failed to adhere to its own rules of procedure tends to lend strong credence to suggestions that the NEC Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lansanah did not only facilitate such unusual and illegal procedure but that she also lied under oath in her testimony before Court.
Such may have prompted accusations by former NEC Commissioners that the current head of NEC by her action has cast aspersion on that institution as a national integrity institution charged with the responsibility to conduct free, fair and transparent elections.
In the face of all this questions are being asked about the relevance of Mrs. Blair to the ongoing trial. What is she here to investigate?
Is she going to probe NEC officials as well since that institution now stands accused of blatant and open partisanship?
To recall, at one point Mr. Cummings had claimed and insisted there was nothing such as an original document but after much hauling and pulling, Mr. Cummings finally submitted to the Court what he called the original document.
However, UP and ALP officials insist the original document was tampered with. But supporters of Cummings disagree arguing that only cosmetic changes were made to the document which accrued to him no benefits.
But cosmetic or non-cosmetic change notwithstanding, it simply strengthens the argument that the document was indeed tampered with because those “cosmetic changes” met the approval of neither Boakai, Urey, or Karnga Lawrence.
More to that, UP and ALP officials maintain that Daniel Naateng who signed the document had fraudulent intent because he was fully aware that Cummings was the then Chairman of the CPP and it was under his signature the Framework document should have been submitted.
Further, according to them, if the original document is/was in color as maintained by Cummings why it was not printed by a color printer that would have shown the color of ink of the various signatures but, was instead printed by a black and white printer.
The public is fully aware of the fact that the Liberian judiciary is riddled with corruption but using such perception to back claims that the Cummings criminal trial is tantamount to official persecution is simply stretching it too far.
And as to whether her testimony (Mrs. Cherie Blair) will prove sufficient to dispel the criminal charges or induce the Courts to “Roll Over and Play Dead because of her “intimidating” presence really remains to be seen.
One thing for sure Mr. Cummings has raised the stakes by calling in a foreign private investigator.
But her credentials, appear not to show the expertise of a document and handwriting analyst according to a former security officer, himself a hand writing and documentation analyst.
From the look of things, this trial may very well drag on till next year. Why because the case is still at the level of the Magistrate Court.
A dissatisfied party will certainly appeal to a higher jurisdiction, the Civil Law Court and from there to the Supreme Court. It promises to be a long drawn out affair.
By the time it is all over, Mr. Cummings may not have sufficient time on his hands to mount a robust and credible campaign granted he is cleared of the charges. If not then he might as well kiss his presidential quest goodbye.
In the final analysis, Cummings’ fate rests in his own hands. Apparently, the strategy employed by his lawyers to deny the existence of an original copy which will compel the Court’s acceptance of a photocopy has clearly not worked.
So it is now back to the drawing boards. But no worries, Cherie will sort things out.