Pastor Caleb W. Askie, who shocked the nation last week with what he said was a divine message instructing the Liberian head of state to step down, has delivered another message.
At his Saturday night service in the GSA Road community, Askie said God is instructing the Government of Liberia to release the 18 southeasterners accused of mercenary activity across the border with Ivory Coast.
“This case has lingered for some time,” Askie told the congregation. “And God is saying that in order to save the state, the Government of Liberia must release these men because their brethren are coming for them, and they are not coming to appeal. They are coming with force.”
In a vision, Askie said, he saw men coming in the night.
“Like a SWAT team, they were stepping over our security forces, who were fast asleep.
“I said ‘Lord, who are these men?!’” he explained. The Lord said to me, ‘they are coming for their brethren.”
Asked whether this implied that the men are innocent, Askie said no. By same token, however, the young pastor told the Daily Observer in an interview after the service that God’s revelations have to be taken in context.
“Obviously, God would not condone rebel activity,” he said. “But this is not about whether they are innocent or not; this is about what is expedient in order to save the State. If the men are innocent, then let the State free them; but they must not keep this case lingering on without telling the men their fate.
“We run a spiritual intelligence ministry,” Askie told the Daily Observer. “We are helping the State. If the southeasterners come for their brethren, they will turn this place upside down.”
Last year an unauthenticated document surfaced, claiming that southeasterners based in the United States were funding a plan to break into the Monrovia Central Prison, where the men are being held, in order to free them. Government spokesmen for the Ministries of Defense and Information, however, seemed split over whether or not the information was accurate.
On December 31, 2013, the 18 men vandalized criminal Court ‘D’ after presiding Judge Yussif Kaba postponed the selection of jurors ahead of the Monday, January 6 scheduled trial.
Judge Kaba, who presided over the trial last year, had suspended the hearing on legal grounds.
His suspension of the case was influenced by a report from one of the then 15 jurors, Jeremy Neufville, which stated that the jury had been bribed to rule in the State’s favor.
Some of the defendants were quoted by our reporter as saying, “We were informed by some of our ‘big’ people that we were to have been released today from this prolonged detention. But, after what the Judge said, we find ourselves prepared to die here today.”
The men were re-arrested in the courtroom by security forces, and no casualties were reported.
Then just over a week ago, on April 25, 2014, one of the 18 men, who had unexpectedly become a State witness, failed to show up in court to testify against his colleagues.
Prince Barclay had been exonerated and freed after he reportedly agreed to turn state witness.
In court on Friday, April 25, state witness Barclay was expected to appear and testify against the other 17 defendants; but when the appointed time came, Barclay could not be found anywhere in the courtroom.
Barclay’s absence prompted a request to the court to suspend hearing on that day, (Friday) stating that the prosecution’s witness had suffered a severe bout of diarrhea. They did not say which hospital had treated him, or show any medical reports related to Barclay’s sudden illness.
One of the lawyers for the defense prayed that the court deny the suspension request, arguing that it was an attempt to delay the case, and prolong his clients’ detention.
Cllr. Dempster Brown argued that prosecution’s failure to produce its witness’ medical records, clearly demonstrated the prosecution’s un-readiness to continue the trial.
After arguments, however, Judge Emery Paye granted the prosecution’s request to suspend the hearing until Monday, April 28.
All 18 of the men on trial were alleged members of a defunct rebel faction, blamed for going on a violent, murderous rampage around the country, between 1990 and 2003.
They were also accused of launching cross-border raids into neighboring Côte d’Ivoire during 2010 to 2011. Several human rights violations were attributed to them, including the killing of seven Nigerian members of a United Nations peacekeeping mission (UNOCL) in the same neighboring country.
The human rights violations were linked to clashes between the Defense and Security Forces (FFS) militias and mercenaries of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, on one hand, and the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) and traditional hunters loyal to President Alassane Ouattara, on the other.
They were arrested between 2010 and 2012, in Grand Gedeh County by a joint-security team. Grand Gedeh is a bordering county with La Côte d’Ivoire.
The accused denied the charges when the case was first heard earlier last year.