Primarily due to lack of social welfare and rehabilitation programs, dozens of street loiterers taken to the Monrovia City Court by riot police on Wednesday, 16 March were later seen jubilating outside the court after a US$90 fine was paid on their behalf by a counsel before their release.
They were raided from various ghettos and criminal hideouts here and charged with “loitering” before their appearance at the City Court in huge number as police deployed around the premises. A writ of arrest dated 16 March issued by the City Court against the suspects says they violated Section 17.6 of the New Penal Law of Liberia, purposely engaging themselves in loitering and manner not usual for law-abiding citizens.
They were accused of “attacking and stealing from peaceful citizens,” and such alleged act of the defendants was “unlawful, criminal and intentional” in violation of the law cited earlier. A police charge sheet dated 16 March says police conducted a vigorous raid of ghettos and abandoned buildings in Monrovia and arrested the suspects, after they allegedly defied police warning to leave such prohibited areas until they were finally arrested.
Police claimed that while warning the suspects, they allegedly argued that they were not leaving because the areas considered prohibited by police were their work places, and not ghettos as branded by the police.
Police investigators charged the suspects with loitering and sent them to court, though they soon resurfaced outside court completely freed yesterday, as some ran bare-footed in jubilation.
Their appearance at the court followed police’s pronouncement that they arrested 135 suspects, including 13 females from ghettos in and around Monrovia. They were suspected to be drug abusers, and police authorities said over 500,000 worth of substances were seized during the raid.
The Liberian Government recently received a delegation from the West Africa Commission on Drugs or WACD, which alarmed that, a large number of young people including men and pregnant women were in ghettos after it held discussions with relevant government agencies, including the police.
The government said it was targeting an inter-agency collaboration in dealing with the situation here due to the public health implication, having being advised by WACD to invest in evidence-based prevention programs, harm reduction, treatment and rehabilitation of drug users.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Jonathan Browne