Prosecutors here have rested with the production of oral and documentary evidence in the Sable Mining case involving several past and present officials following the submission of voluminous exhibits that originate from the first trial of the case nearing the end of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s regime.
But based on defense lawyers’ request made Monday, 24 June, Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh has assigned the next hearing of the case to Monday, 1 July at 9AM to allow the defense team prepare to adequately represent its clients.
In the courtroom Monday were former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, Grand Cape Mount County Sen. Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, former National Investment Commission boss Dr. Richard Tolbert, Bomi County Sen. Morris Saytuma and several other officials indicted in the case.
The case began in 2016 following watchdog group Global Witness’ report that prompted the indictment of the officials along with U.K. – based firm Sable Mining, its officials and Nigerian national Christopher Onanuga based on claims that the company bribed Liberian authorities USD$958,668.00 to get a concession law in its favor.
According to defense lawyer Cllr. Albert Sims, the defense team did not anticipate that it would have begun production of evidence on Monday because it did not know the prosecution would have rested with the production of evidence the same day.
Cllr. Sims notes that due to the volume of the evidence submitted by the State, the defense wants time to properly examine the evidence.
The defense additionally informs the court that due to the state funeral of late Grand Cape Mount County Sen. Edward Dagoseh beginning Tuesday, 25 June, the court should grant the continuance because his kinsman Sen. Sherman and Sen. Saytumah from neighboring Bomi County would be heavily involved in the state funeral.
State lawyer Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh requested the court to deny the defense’s request on grounds that it is meant to deny the State the right to justice.
But Judge Gbenewelleh granted the defense’s request, saying it is the legal right of the defense to ask for continuance to consult with its clients to provide adequate representation.
Regarding the prosecution’s suggestion that the judge will lose jurisdiction over the matter on 29 June upon the expiration of the 42 days jury sitting which is allowed for circuit courts to sit for a term, Judge Gbeneweleh says after the expiration of the 42 days jury session, the judge in a bench trial is allowed to request the justice for extension to conclude the matter pending before the court.
By Winston W. Parley