Monrovia – The ongoing prosecution of individuals indicted by the Government of Liberia based on revelations contained in a Global Witness report accusing some present and past officials of government of allegedly taking bribes looks to be heading for a seesaw battle with the responsibility as to who handles the process shifting from one point to another.
Last week the head of the Special Presidential task Force setup to probe the report turned over the prosecution aspect of those indicted to the Ministry of Justice with the head of the Task Force, Cllr. Fonati Koffa explaining that the task force has gathered evidences and was turning over to the statutory institution responsible for prosecution-the Ministry of Justice.
At a regular Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism press briefing Cllr. Koffa said the task force will assist the Ministry of Justice in the prosecution of the accused.
Justice Minister Cllr. Frederick Cherue who also attended the press briefing warmly accepted the responsibility from the Task Force, vowing that he will ensure impartial prosecution of the accused.
But days later, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that the Ministry of Justice in a June 6 letter to the Special Presidential task force has returned the prosecution to the Task force.
A source hinted FPA that the Task force is expected to address another press briefing today (Thursday) to make public the communication from the Ministry of Justice returning the responsibility to the Task force.
One member of the Presidential Task Force when quizzed on the information said “I don’t want to speak to that now, wait for the press conference tomorrow”.
Doubts over affiliations
There have been doubts amongst some members of the Liberian public over the associations between Justice Minister Cllr. Cherue and one of the indictees, Senator Varney Sherman. The two are long time legal colleagues and Cllr. Sherman as a matter of professionalism recused himself from presiding over the confirmation hearing of Cllr. Cherue.
Cllr. Sherman who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, responsible to hold confirmation hearings for presidential nominees such as Minister of Justice but reportedly left the confirmation hearing of Cllr. Cherue with other members of the Committee.
For Cllr. Cherue he vowed that no amount of friendship will come in the way of his job but according to sources the Justice Ministry is now turning back the responsibility to the Task Force accordingly due to the associations between Senator Sherman and Minister Cherue.
“We are friends but no friend will want to embarrass his friends and so when it comes to the execution of the law, the law will take its course”, said Cllr. Cherue at the Liberian Senate several weeks ago.
Two senior state prosecutors, Minister Cherue and Solicitor general Betty L. Blamoh have or had close ties with indicted Senator Sherman, something observers believe will significantly impact the trial of those indicted.
Although the Special Presidential task Force is yet to officially announce the reported transfer of the prosecution from the Ministry of Justice but for many the shifting of the prosecution from one place to another are all attempts to delay the ongoing prosecution intended to allow those accused to walk free.
Before the Task Force turned over the prosecution to the Ministry of Justice, many Liberians hailed the Task Force for having the courage to push with the writ of arrest of powerful individuals like Senator Sherman, House of Representatives Speaker Alex Tyler and others to ensure they answer to allegations against them.
A confident Senator Sherman boasted that he knows the court well and is certain of acquittal and after the Task force turned over to the Justice Ministry many believed that Senator Sherman was placed in the wrong hands –that of his friend Cllr. Cherue and his former employee, now Solicitor General, Betty L. Blamoh.
SG Blamoh began her practice of law at the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm which is owned by Cllr. Sherman, giving the SG the task of prosecuting the man who helped her to start the practice of the legal profession.
Should the Task Force take over the prosecution, it remains to seen whether the Task Force has a legal authority to prosecute.
Whatever the case, many Liberians hold the view that the ongoing prosecution is a mere attempt to make the public believe that the government is serious in fighting corruption but the end will be business as usual where several cases ended up in the dustbin.