Liberia: All Charges Dropped, Cummings Now a Free Man; But Why?
MONROVIA – Five months into the trial of the ANC political leader, Mr. Alexander Cummings, and two of his party executives, the Solicitor General on Friday announced that the Government has decided to drop all charges as it does not see how any of the CPP constituent political leaders were injured by allegation levied against Cummings.
The charges were dropped without prejudice to the State.
According to the chief prosecutor, he was constrained to drop the charges due to the ruling of the Supreme Court in a case relating to the same contentious clause that the ALP alleged was forged by Mr. Cummings.
The Supreme Court on Friday opined that the contentious Section 8.5 of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Framework Document which bars constituent members who withdraw from fielding candidates in any ensuing election until after 2023 runs contrary to the Articles 17 and 79 of the Constitution.
“The excitement and the willpower to vigorously prosecute the Cummings’ case and ensure that justice, whether “conviction or acquittal” is achieved have strangely fallen on ice. Therefore, I am constrained to highlight the compelling need of calling a spade a spade, end the trial, and drop any and all criminal charges against defendants Alexander B. Cummings and his lieutenants without prejudice to the state and with the right to re-file where applicable,” Cllr. Cephus stated.
The All Liberian Party had alleged that the CPP Framework Document had been altered allegedly by Cummings and that the signatures of its political leaders were forged to support the submission of the alleged altered document to the National Elections Commission (NEC). The allegation gained the support of the Unity Party and a faction of the Liberty Party.
In a write-up to explain the reasons behind the decision to drop the charges, Cllr. Cephus stated:
“During the trial, I strangely noticed what appears to be an unnecessary worn-out contest between two conflicting words being used by the CPP leaders in their debates over the alleged original and disputed Framework document all bearing the date of May 19, 2020. For instance, the original Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Framework, according to former constitutional Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, in an answer to a question on the cross contained the word “RESIGN”, which according to him was an option given to a party desirous of quitting the CPP for a cause; whereas the disputed version of the same CPP Framework Document also bearing the date of May 19, 2020, contains the word “WITHDRAWAL” which, according to Section 8.5(2) of the selfsame document can only be invoked by a party after 2024.
“Be that as it may, the actual conflict is not about the May 19, 2020 date or the signing procedure of the document by zoom, instead, it is about or is between the word: “RESIGN” which the former Vice President has alluded to; and the word: “WITHDRAWAL” which is contained in Section 8.5(2) of the disputed Framework document filed with the NEC by Alexander B. Cummings and his disciples. These two words by all accounts, are profoundly synonymous in context, usage, and practice and are intended to achieve one objective—to leave, depart or go out.”
What, however, remains mind-bulging is the fact that it took the Solicitor General almost five months to realize that the point of contention, which according to him, is on the words “RESIGN” and “WITHDRAW” does not in any way change the meaning of the clause alleged to have been altered by Cummings.
According to one legal luminary, the explanation by the Solicitor General brings to mind the Minister of Justice’s instruction to the Solicitor General to turn over all evidence in the case to his office for perusal.
The Justice Minister has often accused the Solicitor General of running a parallel ministry.
Bringing an end to the ‘disregard’ from the office of the Solicitor General, the Justice Minister who doubles as Attorney General, in April this year warned that there should be no more prosecution without his approval, and prosecutors are to furnish his office with proper evidence in support of any prosecutions.
“The Minister noted that he is under obligation to ensure that the purpose of prosecution is not to taunt, harass, grandstand, punish or convict, but to pursue the truth; and that in the instance case, the Writ against Alexander B. Cummings and others was never quashed and, therefore could not have been reinstated by the office of the Minister,” the Justice Minister press release stated.
Another legal luminary also opined that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in a separate case that intimates that the contentious section runs contrary to the Constitution, it still prudent for the prosecution which has publicized that it has overwhelming evidence against Cummings to prove the allegation of tampering
The dismissal of the case also comes just a week after the investigative report by Omnia and Olaco questioned the decision of Liberia’s prosecution system that it would go to court with a case that has no concrete evidence.
In the foreword of the Report, Cherie Blair cautioned Liberians to examine whether the Rule of Law is being ignored – or even intentionally flouted – to arrest the progress of a prominent political opponent of the Weah Government as in the case of Cummings’ prosecution.
Insisting that their investigation of the CPP Framework Document was thoroughly independent and forensic, the old adage that there is “no smoke without fire” does not apply to the allegations against Cummings.
“To the contrary, this Report lays bare how baseless complaints have been upheld and bolstered by a fundamentally unreliable, amateurish, political process masquerading as a neutral investigative review, and are inexplicably now before the criminal courts,” she noted.