President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has granted executive clemency to 50 prisoners, including a Ugandan female and ordered their release from detention immediately. The inmates are from eight counties, but nearly half of the total were held in Monrovia.
Among those released by the President include dismissed police officer Perry Dolo, who was arrested with drugs while heading President Sirleaf’s official motorcade in 2013.
“I want to reaffirm the minister’s position and those who commit serious crimes – crimes that [we] are not going to tolerate here like rape, like armed robbery – none of those are going to be released,” she stressed during a visit to the Monrovia Central Prison Wednesday, 23 December.
A young Ugandan lady, Shirat Nalwadda, who was also arrested at the Roberts International Airport here in Liberia for allegedly “trafficking drugs”, is one of the prisoners released after serving four years imprisonment.
After interacting with the prisoners Wednesday, President Sirleaf affirmed Justice Ministry’s recommendation to release those who were serving their sentences for minor offenses committed.
The President says government wants to send a message to everybody that those are not crimes the State is going to permit before they destroy “our country.” She expressed hope that the Ugandan female will return home and be able to serve her country well, having told her that she was held here because she did something bad that could spoil Liberian youth.
MrsSirleaf however warned those granted clemency that it does not mean they should go back into the street to engage into things they were doing before. “Because if you land back in prison and there will be a record on you to say you went to prison; you were freed, and you committed the crime again and you came back. I think that will be a serious thing,” she cautioned.
Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, says the Ugandan lady will be deported to Uganda but did not say when. “We like to use the Christmas season to let the light to shine not only on MCP [Monrovia Central Prison], but throughout the length and breadth of Liberia,” he said while presenting the prisoners to the President.
Cllr. Sannoh recommended 23 prisoners from Monrovia alone, 17 from Nimba, including 16 drug dealers; and three prisoners each from Grand Gedeh and Lofa Counties, respectively.
He finally recommended to the President for release, one prisoner each from Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Bomi and Maryland Counties. Minister Sannoh says the Monrovia Central Prison has a total of 999 inmates 178 of them already tried and sentenced, while the remaining 821 are pre-trial detainees.
Of those serving their prison terms, he says 52 are for murder, 62 armed robbers and 28 rapists, making the three major crimes to constitute “closed to 69 percent of the prison population.”
Concerning the pretrial detainees, he says 268 are being detained for armed robbery, while 248 face rape charge. The Liberian Attorney General however told President Sirleaf that the Justice Ministry was not recommending anybody who has been charged for armed robbery, rape and murder in order not to “send any message out to the people in the negative.”
By Winston W. Parley