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“I was harmed”

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Self-proclaimed advocate Vandala Patricks, released on bail Tuesday, 1 March claims he was allegedly harmed by an armed officer of the police Emergency Response Unit or ERU, using an alleged sharp-pointed instrument on him while being taken to the Monrovia Central Prison last week.

“If you kidnap or arrest an individual that an ERU officer will use a sharp pointed instrument on me while I was cuffed, this question needs to be answered by the Government of the Republic of Liberia,” Vandala lamented, claiming that senior officers at the LNP “gave direct instruction to those armed police officers to harm” him.

He was addressing supporters in Monrovia upon his release here Tuesday, on court order after his lawyer Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe secured a cash bond value L$267,000 which is an equivalent of US$3,000, exactly seven days after his arrest on February 23rd.

Prior to his release yesterday, another protester who was among his supporters that besieged the premises of the Temple of Justice on Monday, Achie I. Sannoh, was picked up by police and is said to be in police custody.

“I was harmed; the scars are still on my body. Again, we are people of peace; there are others who don’t believe in the struggle. It becomes our moral obligation to define the struggle to them,” he said. The Government had indicted Patricks on 24 February on charges of sedition and criminal libel against the President, having accused President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government of being involved in political deaths, including the late Harry Greaves and Cllr. Michael Allison, among others.

The arrests of Patricks and Sannoh are two incidents that follow series of challenges against government’s handling of investigation into the death of Mr. Harry Greaves, which also had presidential hopeful Simeon Freeman fleeing the country for indicting comments he made against the Sirleaf regime.

In an interview with The NewDawn Tuesday, defend lawyer Cllr. Gongloe said his client’s rights have been violated, adding that Patricks appeared a bit weak and had departed for medical examination after addressing journalists.

“The action against Vandala is a violation of his rights because all he did was to speak freely. If the statement he made was considered by government to be untrue, government had the right to speak back to correct or present its side,” Cllr. Gongloe argued.

As it stands, Cllr. Gongloe says there is no notice of assignment yet regarding when the case will be called for defendant Patricks to give his plea against the indictment whether or not, he is guilty of charges levied against him by prosecutors.

Cllr. Gongloe is opposed to criminalizing comments made by Patricks; instead, he suggests that government has spokespersons at the Ministry of Information to respond to what Patricks said, as he pondered over how could “one man’s speech intimidate a whole government.”

The rights lawyer insists that the law government is using which prescribes criminal libel against the President in the Constitution is “unconstitutional” and must be repealed, saying he had suggested that to the President while serving as Solicitor General then.

But he acknowledged that the law is still active here because it has not yet been repealed due to alleged reluctance by the Legislature.

Indictee Patricks yesterday persistently asked his supporters to gather on March 11 to petition UN peacekeepers to remain for elections, claiming that Liberia is still fragile, citing alleged “mysterious disappearances of people.”

He says they remain unrelenting, as he ordered his supporters to gather in demand for the release of Sannoh, just as they did for him, vowing that “we will die in the cause of the people.”

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