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Lawyers debate sedition charge

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Prosecution and defense counsels were Tuesday, 17 May locked in debatee against the indictment of self-proclaimed activist Vandalar Patricks, who faces sedition and criminal libel against President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as state lawyers requested the Criminal Court “A” to deny a request by defense to dismiss the indictment.

Defendant Patricks was indicted this year after he accused the Sirleaf government of allegedly masterminding the elimination of political opponents following the suspicious death of the ex-managing director of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Company or LPRC Harry A. Greaves, Jr. whom he alleged was murdered by hired assassin.

But his lawyers contend that “the indictment for sedition and criminal libel against the President is a fit subject for dismissal as such indictment is not supported by the Constitution of Liberia.” In a motion filed with the court to dismiss the indictment, Patricks’ lawyers including Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe said the accused has the right to request the dismissal of the indictment where there exists defense of objection which is capable of determination without trial, such as the “lack of legal foundation to support an indictment.”

The defense team further argued that its client is a Liberian citizen and is entitled to freedom of thought, opinion, conscience and expression which can only be limited in a manner provided by the Constitution.
It therefore requested the court to dismiss the indictment because it allegedly runs contrary to the organic law of Liberia, having earlier argued that it is unconstitutional for “free expression to be limited or curtailed by an Executive action” in the form of arrest by police.

The defense further tried to convince the lower court that it has jurisdiction to decide the issues raised in the motion on grounds that Article 66 of Liberia’s Constitution gives subordinate courts the authority to pass on all statutory and constitutional issues while the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of all constitutional issues. But a prosecution’s resistance against the motion suggests that the same Constitution being cited by the defense provides for trial of all persons, citizens as well as residents who may come in conflict with the law.

The prosecution says the accused –Patrictks, violated certain provisions of the law for which he has been indicted and awaiting trial, adding that his connection to the crimes charged will be determined at trial since the Constitution provides for violators to face trial to express their innocence.

The state denied curtailing Patricks’ rights in any way without applying the relevant laws. Opposed to defense’s argument, the state lawyers further said the Supreme Court has sole responsibility to handle constitutional matters and not any other subordinate court.

The state additionally contends that the two charges brought against Patrickss have not yet been repealed, declared null and void, noting that there are no laws, treaties, decrees, customs and regulations found to be inconsistent in the instant case.

Following argument on Tuesday, the court presided over by Judge J. Boimah Kontoe reserved ruling.

By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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