Liberia: Court Sends Student Leaders, Others to Pre-Trial Detention at Monrovia Central Prison

Having spent more than 48 hours in police detention, the Monrovia City Court committed the students to pre-trial detention at the Monrovia Central Prison despite a plea from their lawyer, Cllr. Lavalah Supowood to sign for them a bring them to court on Monday, June 10. Photo credit: Lennart Dodoo/FPA

MONROVIA – The Monrovia City Court has committed about 20 persons, including two university students leader to pre-trial detention at the Monrovia Central Prison for their alleged involvement with the riot that occurred on the Capitol By-Pass on Wednesday.

Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected] 

They were held in police cell since Wednesday after a random arrest by the Liberia National Police. 

The Writ of Arrest issued against them says that they, with the intent to “cause private prosecutors, serious bodily injury, purposely with violence jumped on said private prosecutors, beat and inflicted pains and injuries on their bodies, and that in the process defendants engaged themselves in rioting, blocking of public streets, singing battle cry slogans, preventing vehicles and movement of pedestrians as well as throwing stones in the public which resulted to injuries to persons, among others.

They were charged with aggravated assault, rioting, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highway and public passages.

Their release was a major point of contention during Friday’s ‘Save-The-State’ protest. Members of the Council of Patriots and the Student Unification Party (SUP) demanded the release of their compatriots before they could deliver the petition to the Government of Liberia.

The Chairman of the Unity Party (UP) made the demand before the Inspector General of Police, Col. Patrick Sudue, the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, the ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Amb. Babatunde Ajisomo, amongst others, noting that they had been behind bars for over 48 hours without a charge.

The Minister of Justice assured the protestors that the group who were randomly arrested were going to be released on Monday – something the protestors refused to accept.

However, they (the protestors) resolved to reassemble on Monday to present their petition to the appropriate official of government.

A disappointed defense team having a tete-a-tete at the Temple of Justice. Photo Credit: Lennart Dodoo/FPA

Both Cllr. Lavalah Supuwood and Atty. Samuel Koffi Woods who are presenting the defendants expressed disappointment over the government’s decision to quietly arraign them before court after keeping them behind bars for more than the statutory period.

Cllr. Supuwood told FrontPageAfrica he sees no reason why they would be committed to prison when he, as their lawyer, meets are criteria to sign for their release and bring them before the court on Monday.

“The Ministry of Justice and the Director of Police promised that they will release the people, but soon Saturday morning they sent them here and I came to sign for them; the judge did agree, but the government lawyers are saying that for security reasons they should be put in jail,” Cllr. Supowood told FrontPageAfrica at the Temple of Justice.

He lamented it is inexplicable how individuals charged with aggravated assault, rioting and blocking public passage pose security threats to the state.

According to him, the government should have taken cue from the June 7 protest to realize that the people they assumed to be violent are peaceful people.

“We fought so hard yesterday and the day before for a peaceful rally and everything went well, we thought that would have manifest itself here that they would be said ‘there is no record that these people are violent people.’ But for the prosecution, they didn’t look at it that way, for them, this is crime against the state and this is so disappointing,” Cllr. Supowood said.

Atty. Samuel Koffi Woods (r) was heard openly expressing his disappointment over the prosecution’s decision to ‘coerce’ the Magistrate to commit his clients to prison until Monday. Photo Credit: Lennart Dodoo/FPA

The June 5 riot emanated from holding into police custody, Representative Yekeh Kolubah whom well-armed police failed to arrest on Wednesday June 7 after surrounding his home at about 6: 00 am. 

The arrest was stopped by residents of the district who trooped to Rep. Kolubah’s home to stop the police from effecting the arrest.

The lawmaker was later taken from his house and escorted to the Police Headquarters by the ECOWAS Ambassador Representative Edwin Snowe, who is also an ECOWAS Parliamentarian.

He was reportedly accused of ordering his supports to beat a resident of the district who is also alleged to have a stolen a mobile phone belonging to one of his supporters.

A search and seizer warrant was later prepared on the lawmaker after his release from police custody. Rep. Kolubah told journalists that the police suspected him of keeping arms and ammunition in his house.

However, after over an hour of thorough search, the Court Sheriffs told Rep. Kolubah their search did not find any questionable material in his home.

Some political pundits believe that Court’s decision would give reason for an even bigger protest on Monday.