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Liberia news

Court denies Speaker separate trial

Liberia’s indicted House Speaker J. Alex Tyler has lost a motion for separate trial before the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, after the court found that he did not show how his defenses were in conflict with the rest of the indictees in the Sable Mining alleged bribery scheme.

“Those narrations made by Movant [Speaker Tyler] in its Motion for Separate Trial may be raised as a better defenses during trial, but are not grounds for the granting of Separate Trial,” Presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge Emery S. Paye ruled Tuesday, 2 August.

Mr. Tyler and former ruling Unity Party Chair Sen. H. Varney Sherman and Nigerian national Chris Onanuga were indicted in May this year after Global Witness claimed in its report that U.K.- based Sable Mining bribed several Liberian officials to pass mining laws that will favor the company through a non-competitive bidding process.

But the court said Speaker Tyler did not show “to the satisfaction of the Court” those defense that are conflicting to the rest of the defendants indicted to warrant granting of separate trial, thus, ruling that the Speaker will be tried along with the rest of the defendants.

While filing the motion on 4 July, Mr. Tyler had said he wanted to be tried separately by the court from the other defendants, raising contentions that his defenses were in conflict to their defenses.

Tyler had argued that the act and conduct constituting his indictment by prosecution fall within his duties and responsibilities in keeping with Articles 29 and 35 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, including an alleged letter dated 5 August 2010 forwarded to him by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

He unsuccessfully made efforts to tie his defenses around President Sirleaf’s alleged letter of August 5, 2010, telling the court that by the letter in question, the President had forwarded to him the Amended and Restated Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC Act of 2005, requesting its passage.

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Tyler further argued that consistent with President Sirleaf’s request and the legislative power vested in the House as prescribed in Article 29 and 35, he submitted the Act to the House of Representatives and it was passed and concurred by the Senate before it was printed into Hand Bills on 18 September 2010 after President Sirleaf had approved it.

While prosecution could not deny that President Sirleaf submitted a draft PPCC Act, enacted by the Legislature, signed by the President and printed into Hand Bills, the state lawyers however contend that Tyler and others in their respective positions or capacities acted together to commit bribery and other felonious crimes during the passage of the PPCC Act in 2010.

“… [But] according to Respondent [Prosecution], Movant and others acted together in soliciting and receiving the Bribe (Money) from Co-Defendant Sable Mining Inc. for the passage of the Act empowering the Ministry of Lands and Mines to declare the concession area as Non-bidding,” the court said. The Court observed that in Mr. Tyler’s motion for separate trial, he simply narrated the duties and functions of the both Houses, indicating how the Legislature performed its duties as per President Sirleaf’s letter for the passage of the Amended and Restated PPCC Act.

As such, Judge Paye said those narrations made by Mr. Tyler for separate trial may be raised as a better defense during trial, but not grounds for separate trial. Defense counsels took exception to the Judge’s ruling and said they would take advantage of the statutes available.

By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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