State and defense lawyers are expected to appear before the Supreme Court of Liberia at 9 am December 3 to debate an appeal filed on behalf of 13 Liberians that were sentenced to life time prison in mid June following trial for “mercenarism” at a lower court.
The 13 defendants, predominantly Grand Gedeans, were found guilty by jurors and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment on 17 June by Judge Emery S. Paye, who presided over the Criminal Court “D” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.
The defendants had been facing years of trials here after being arrested and charged for allegedly partaking in the 2010 post-elections violence in neighboring Ivory Coast where they allegedly killed seven UN Peacekeepers.
Initially prosecutors had indicted over 20 Liberians, but some were later nolle prosequi while others were acquitted in the middle of the trial.
Thirteen defendants for whom lawyers have filed appeals at the Supreme Court include Nyezee Barway, Morris Cole, Isaac Taryon, Steven Gloto, Prince Youty and James Lee Cooper.
The other defendants include Emmanuel Saymah, Moses Baryee, Sam Tarley, Ophoree Diah, Alfred Bobby James, Jr., Jacob Saydee and Mohammed Massaquuoi.
The defendants, who went through several trials for years on the same mercenary charge without a verdict before they finally got convicted in June this year, were often heavily guarded by armed riot police and UN Peacekeepers from maximum detention to court on a daily basis.
On the day of their sentencing, the Criminal Court “D” was heavily guarded by armed officers of the Emergency Response Unit or ERU, riot support unit of the Liberia National Police and armed UN Peacekeepers.
Out of 11 regular state witnesses and 7 rebuttals, the judge had underscored the testimonies of some witnesses that claimed they fought alongside the defendants in favor of ex-president Laurent Gbarbgo against President Allasane Outara’s government in Ivory Coast.
Pascal Kollie, a Guinean Kpelle; Bayee Gaye, a Grand Gedean and Prince Barclay claimed they were part of the defendants that fought in Ivory Coast, after which they were separately arrested between 2011 and 2012. Before being sentenced, lawyers representing the defendants and the state lawyers clashed in a heated argument, amid claim that jurors were allegedly bribed US$500 each.
Defense lawyer T. Dempster Brown, had claimed a caller informed him that a bailiff he called Kpehe, was the alleged mastermind of the alleged bribe to each member of the jury panel. But the prosecutors said the defense team should be ashamed of itself for failure to concentrate on proving their clients’ innocence of the crime charged, and stop blaming others.
State lawyer Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, counter-argued that Cllr. Brown had incriminated himself by claiming he received calls from a person connected to the jurors to reveal the bribery allegation, telling the court that the lawyer was a subject of arrest to face prosecution.
However, presiding Judge Emery S. Paye, said the court is convinced the defendants committed the mercenary crime, and therefore sentenced them to life in prison, shortly after denying a motion for new trial.
The defendants were allegedly part of attacks against villages located in the West of Cote d’Ivoire in Sao, Para and Nigre, allegedly burning houses and farms, killing seven UN peacekeepers and an Ivorian Soldier, according to state witness N’gadi Dekoin Afirmin, an Ivorian security officer.
However, the defense lawyers insist that all of the statements produced by prosecutors as evidence from the police were lies, claiming that the officers wrote what they claimed the defendants had said.