The publisher and Managing Editor of the New Dawn newspaper, Mr. Othello B. Garblah has been slapped with a contempt charge by Judge Peter Gbeneweleh of the Criminal Court “C” a day following a report that Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe visited the court during the ongoing Sable Mining bribery trial.
The contempt charge relates to a story published in the Tuesday July 9, edition of the New Dawn in which the paper raised concerns over the ongoing trial in a story titled “Plot to exonerate defendants?”
The concerns follow speculations which emerged after Associate Justice Nagbe’s visit drew some form of murmuring in the court.
On Friday Associate Justice Nagbe visited the court, something which compelled the trial Judge Peter Gbeneweleh to halt the trial for nearly 25 minutes as they both proceeded in his chambers.
Upon his returned from the Judge’s Chamber, Justice Nagbe waved to the defendants with a smile as he exited the court room.
In the writ of summons issued Wednesday, July 10, 2019, Mr. Garblah was asked to appear and show cause why he should not be held in contempt for the publication which also had to do with Associate Justice Nagbe’s visit at the court during the trial that involves three of his former legislative colleagues- Senators Varney Sherman, Morris Saytuma, and former House Speaker Alex Tyler.
Report of Associate Justice Nagbe’s visit at the court was reported in several other media, but it appears the court wants to set an example with the New Dawn-Garblah.
The contempt charge comes at a time when the current team heading the country’s Justice Department were all part of the defendants’ counsel team during the regime of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Court records show that Cllr. Musa Dean of the Dean& Associates law firm, now Justice Minister, Cllr. CyrenusCephus of Cyma & Associates, now Solicitor General and Cllr. Edward K. Matins, of Cyma & Associate, now Montserrado County Attorney are still reflected on the documents as defense counsels without a letter to show their withdrawal.
According to Mr. Garblah this raises serious conflict of interest and wonder why the current Justice Department did not maintain the Presidential Taskforce with different prosecutors rather than the same group handling the case. Similar conflict of interest issues were raised during the regime of president Sirleaf which led to the establishment of the Presidential Taskforce.
Cllr. Betty Lamin then Solicitor General had worked for the Sherman and Sherman Law firm and Cllr. Varney Sherman being her former boss could have prosecuted him. She same with Cllr. Fredrick Cheru, former Justice Minister who also on the basis of conflict of interest recused himself from the case.
Speaking on the contempt charge, Mr. Garblah said the concerns raised in the story did not in anyway attempt to impugn the Judiciary but rather to flag some of the public concerns regarding the trial as it relates to the prosecution.
Senator Sherman and others are standing trial in an alleged bribery scandal in which several former and present government officials received US950, 000 in bribe money to change a local mining law here in favor of a Sable Mining, a British firm, at least according to a Global Witness report which forms the basis of the trial.