The Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia has granted talk-show host Henry Costa a habeas corpus and released him from further police custody with immediate effect.
Presiding Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh ruled Thursday, February 12, 2015 that it was “unthinkable, unbelievable, and inconceivable” that Mr. Costa placed himself in hiding behind the “canagate” of the microphone when he was outdoor going to and coming from work daily.
Prosecutors had argued that the talk-show host had been in hiding more than three weeks before his arrest at 2 O’clock am on February 7, after police allegedly invited him to appear and provide explanation relating to his pronouncement made over the alleged deportation of Lebanese national Sam Fawaz.
Judge Gbeneweleh observed that prosecutors did not deny that Costa was arrested by Police along with 34 Liberians on February 7 for curfew violation, but only the petitioner remained in police custody after the rest were released.
“…This court also notes that curfew violation is not a crime, but an infraction, which is punishable by a fine of $25.00. Petitioner should have been released just like the other 34 Liberians since all of them were outdoor during the curfew hours, and were arrested by the police for violation of the curfew law,” the ruled.
Regarding police alleged invitation, which prosecutors said Costa did not honor; the court found that “the return of the respondents (prosecutors) is devoid of any documentary evidence to substantiate their allegation that the petitioner was invited by the Liberia National Police.”
Judge Gbeneweleh said a copy of the invitation should have been annexed to the return or furnished with the court to establish their averment that the petitioner was indeed and in truth invited by the police, as he cited Section 9.3 (4) of the Civil Procedure Law of Liberia, pages 106 and 107.
Additionally, the court observed that the petitioner contended that the police failed to charge and present him before a court of competent jurisdiction within 48 hours as provided for by the 1986 Constitution.
But prosecutors had said Costa should have been taken to court on Monday morning, February 9, 2015 when the petition was filed at 8:30am the same day.
“This means that the police investigation was concluded and the petitioner was accordingly charged. The appropriate writ should have been issued and exhibited before the court to substantiate the conclusion of the police investigation and the compliance of Article 21(f) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution…,” he said.
The judge notwithstanding noted that a careful perusal of prosecutors’ prayer clearly requests the court to order Costa’s return to the LNP to conclude ongoing police interrogation.
“This means that the investigation has not been concluded, but it was still ongoing and the petitioner will continue to be in custody of the Respondents far beyond the period of 48 hours in violative of the above constitutional provision,” Judge Gbeneweleh said.
Prosecutors have taken exception to the court’s ruling.
By Winston W. Parley