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Police, AFL officers held for murder

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The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Benedict Sarnnoh, has blamed an officer of the Liberian National Police and three others for the death of a commercial motorcyclist at the Redlight market in Paynesville on April 16, 2015, which led to subsequent violent protest and burning down of a police sub-station.

He said the police officer linked to the death of the motorcyclist will be prosecuted in accordance with the law.

According to Minister Sarnnoh, autopsy conducted by the government revealed that the unidentified motorcyclist died of pressure as a result of strangulation through his vein, which he described as unnatural.

Addressing a regular press briefing Thursday 21 May at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill, the Attorney General said the government hired two pathologists from Ghana to conduct autopsies on the bodies of two motorcyclists whose deaths at separate locations outside Monrovia, are linked to a police officer and a soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia, respectively.

He said the decision to prosecute the police officer and the AFL soldiers is a clear indication that no one is above the law, saying, “All citizens are equal under the law.”

Minister Sarnnoh said all those connected to the two incidents will face the weight of the law, saying, “Police officers are expected to save lives and property, and not to destroy them”.

He also said 30 motorcyclists arrested in the aftermath of the violence and arson attack on the police sub-station are being investigated and found guilty, they will be charged and sent to court.

Following the incident last month, police authorities in Monrovia said vigorous investigation was ongoing to establish facts and causes of the deaths of three motorcyclists.

Monrovia was hit by news of the deaths three commercial bike riders, the first from an encounter with a soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the second with the police, and the third reportedly from a tragic motor accident.

Uncontrollable violence erupted in the Paynesville suburb of Monrovia on Thursday, 16 April when a police officer allegedly struck a motorcyclist to death following an encounter over alleged traffic violations, prompting dozens of motorcyclists to go amok, burning down a sub-station in the densely populated commercial district of Redlight, and physically assaulting female police officers,, among others.

A police statement issued in Monrovia on April 17, extended deepest condolences to families of the victims and promised prompt investigation.

Police Director Chris C. Massaquoi, vowed to ensure a speedy and transparent outcome of the investigation.

The statement from the police also described the motorcyclists’ action as outrageous, and criminal, which subsequently led the LNP through the Justice Ministry to declare the entire Paynesville community no go- zones, covering the routes from ELWA to Double Bridge through the Redlight.

The ELWA Junction to Mount Barclay through the Redlight and ELWA Highway are all listed among the no-go zones, Director Massaquoi said.

Meanwhile, Minister Sarnnoh said the sanction imposed on the motorcyclists is lifted and motorcyclists in the Paynesville area may now ply in their various communities but not from ELWA Junction to Red light.

He said the Ministry of Transport will embark on a process of compulsory registration for every motorbike plying the streets, including issuance of license plates, and operator’s licenses to ensure property identification of bikers and bike owners across the country.

He told reporters that registration for motorcyclists is expected to commence from June 1- July 15, and after this period, any biker plying the streets without a license plate will be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with law.

“Motorbike riders will not bring this country to any form of lawlessness with their disorderly conduct”.

He said the peace and security of Liberia is not restricted to the police along but should be a partnership between the police and the citizenry to move the country forward, warning however that respect for human rights does not mean civilian should attack the police. Edited by Jonathan Browne

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