Liberia: Defense Lawyers Request President Weah, Johnson-Sirleaf To Testify in Samukai’s Economic Sabotage Case

File photo: President Weah and ex-president Sirleaf in a closed discussion on Pres. Weah’s inauguration day

Monrovia –   Defense lawyers in former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai’s economic Sabotage case have requested Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay to summon President George Manneh Weah to testify in the ongoing trial.

The defense team said the request is intended for President Weah to testify in the ongoing trial on behalf of defendants Brownie J. Samukai and his two former deputies-Joseph F. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorkor, Former Comptroller.

The Defense’s request is based on both prosecution and defense witnesses’ testimonies that President Weah entered into an agreement with former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to reimburse the amount of US$1.2 Million used from the AFL Pension Account.

Requested Samukai’s lawyer: “Counsel for defendants respectfully prays your Honor for a writ of Subpoena Ad-Testificadum to be issued and served on the Minister of State, intended for the President of Liberia, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah to appear before this court to give testimony on behalf of the defendants to the effect that the Government of Liberia, first by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and subsequently by President George Manneh Weah, committed itself and undertook to reimburse, restitute or pay back the USD$1.2 Million which were withdrawn from the AFL Pension or Welfare Account by the defendants now on trial on orders and authorization from the  Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.”

Cllr. Walkins Wright also argued that President Weah will also testify to the payment of US$4, 60,000 as a portion of the reimbursement of the US$1.2 Million used from the AFL Pension Account through the Ministry of Finance.

“Further to this testimony confirming the obligation or commitment of the Government of Liberia, this subpoena witness, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah will be requested to confirm the defendants’ (Samukai and Johnson) testimonies to show good faith to the commitment of the Government of Liberia, that he, President Weah approved and ordered the reimbursement or repayment of a portion of the amount, in the amount of US$4,60,000 which was paid by the Ministry of Finance into the Ministry of Defense’ Account at the Central Bank of Liberia in December of 2018,” Cllr. Wright mentioned.

In resistance to the Defense Counsel, Solicitor General Cllr. Syma Syrenius Cephas contended that the application made by the defense team to summon President Weah is “unconstitutional and unprecedented” in the history of the country’s jurisprudence.

Cllr. Cephas then requested Judge Gbeisay to deny and dismiss the application because it violates Article 61 of the Liberian Constitution.

Article 61 states: “The President shall be immune from any suits, actions or proceedings, judicial or otherwise, and from arrest. Detention or other actions on account of any act done by him while President of Liberia pursuant to any provision of this Constitution or any other laws of the Republic.”

Added Cllr. Cephus: “The application is in total violation of the Article cited above on grounds that this is a formal criminal trial and is therefore construed to be a proceeding which the Constitution forbids the President from participating in; therefore, the application should be ignored, denied and treated as if it has never been filed.”

The Solicitor General also argued that inviting the President to testify in the case will lead to a serious Constitutional crisis.

Following the arguments, Judge Gbeisay reserved ruling into the matter to be delivered on March 13, 2020.