Four of the 9 Grand Gedeans convicted here for mercenarism have walked out of prison after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf extended them clemency. The President extended the Executive clemency on New Year’s Eve (31 December) as part of gestures marking celebrations for the Christmas and New Year’s festivities.
Those released include an ex-general of the disbanded Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy or LURD rebels OphoreeDiah. General Diah, who also fought for an earlier rebel group ULIMO-J, served as chief of security at the National Port Authority (NPA) during the transitional period in 2004 prior to his arrest along with others in Grand Gedeh County for mercenary activities and subsequent conviction.
Five others are still languishing behind bar at the Monrovia Central Prison. Those released by the President along with General Diah are Moses Baye, Emmanuel Saywou and Jacob Saydee.
The Liberian leader had earlier released a batch of inmates from the Monrovia Central Prison prior to Christmas. While some Liberians have welcomed President Sirleaf’s gesture, they equally wonder why she could not release all nine Grand Gedeans.
Credible prison sources told The NEW DAWN the remaining Grand Gedeans in prison include Bobby Sarpee, NyanzeeBarway, Edward Cole, Mohammed Masquoi and Stephen Glint.
Sources also disclosed that the health conditions of the remaining inmates from the county are not conducive, stressing a need for the government to close the chapter by releasing the five individuals left behind bar.
Meanwhile, several persons spoken to from Grand Gedeh County have praised President Sirleaf for releasing their kinsmen, but appealed that she extends similar gesture to those left in prison.
In October 2016, President Johnson-Sirleaf released the first batch of Grand Gedeans: Isaac Taryou, Sam Tarlay, Prince Yotay and James Lee Cooper, bringing to total 13 convicts in connection with the same crime.
The 13 Grand Gedeans were tried and found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment by Criminal Court “D” at the Temple of Justice in July 2015 but lawyers representing the convicts at the time appealed to the high court against the sentence.
Liberia’s Human Rights lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, who took the appeal to the Supreme Court, argued that the state failed miserably to prove its case against the defendants and that the jurors’ guilty verdict against them was contrary to the evidence adduced during the trial, praying the high court to acquit the defendants.
“Your honor the state has failed miserably to prove its case against the defendants and that the testimonies of the state witnesses were un-corroborative and nothing but hearsay,” Cllr. Gongloe had argued.
But County Attorney for Montserrado County, Cllr. DakuMulbah, resisted the appeal and asked the high court to deny and dismiss it as the state proved its case beyond all reasonable doubts, noting that state witnesses’ testimonies were corroborative.
“Your honor the state has proved its case against beyond all reasonable doubts as the testimonies is regular, seven rebuttal witnesses and 51 pieces of evidence corroborative to warrant the defendant’s guilt,” Cllr. Mulbah resisted.
Final opinion handed down by the Supreme Court of Liberia headed by Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and endorsed by four Associate Justices, KabinehJa’neh, Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie, Philip Banks and Sie-A-NyeneYouh upheld “That in the case before us, the state met the mandatory threshold standards of establishing prima facie evidence against nine of the 13 appellants/defendants.”
The high court’s opinion, read by Chief Justice Korkpor, further noted, “Wherefore and in view of the above, the guilty verdict against the four defendants in the lower court is reversed.The guilty verdict against the nine defendants is upheld, therefore the nine defendants are sentenced to life” The Grand Gedeans were among 18 other defendants arrested by state security in 2011 and 2012 during cross border fracas after post electoral violence in neighboring Ivory Coast between loyalists of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo and now incumbent President AlassaneOuattara. But five of the 18 were acquitted during trial at the lower court due to lack of sufficient evidence.
By Emmanuel Mondaye -Editing by Jonathan Browne