Liberia: Cephus Likens Himself to Pontius Pilate

Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephus.  

... “The case is almost like what transpired among the Jewish people. Jesus was a Jewish and the Jewish people accused him of Blasphemy…,” Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephus

Solicitor-General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus has disclosed that the government never had any intention of prosecuting Alexander Cummings and his co-accused until the defendant’s own colleagues claimed that “he has committed forgery and complained him to the government.”

Cllr. Cephus, in his own defense against claims of ‘wrongful prosecution’ by Cummings and fellow defendants, argued that the government’s involvement in the case came as a result of a complaint, which they had to investigate since it was leading to a pandemonium in the opposition.

“The case is almost like what transpired among the Jewish people. Jesus was a Jewish and the Jewish people accused him of Blasphemy,” Cllr. Cephus told a Journalist assigned to the Supreme Court at the end of former Vice President Joseph Boakai's testimony as a state witness last week in the Cummings case. “They arrested [Jesus] and took him to the Romans and the Romans had the thinking that it was an attempt to undermine the Roman State.”

“For us the State, we were not aware. We didn't have any intention of going after anyone until the opposition themselves claimed one of their members committed forgeries,” he added. “And the State has to investigate because that was leading to a pandemonium in the opposition and fearing civil unrest; they brought and delivered him to us. They should cry their own cry.”

Cllr. Cephus’ self-defense, however, comes after Cummings, who is the political leader of the Alternative National Congress, accused the solicitor-general of subjecting him to ‘wrongful prosecution’ — as a way to weaken his (Cummings’) presidential bid which, he believes, could make President George Weah a one-time president.

“I am innocent and being wrongfully tried. This is persecution instead of prosecution, but I will win. I will triumph over the government no matter what they do. The charges are frivolous.  I am going to win against the government in court,” Cummings said in April.

The ANC leader noted that what baffled him most is that while he is being tried at the magisterial court, one of the lower courts in Liberia, Cllr. Cephus is personally prosecuting this case when there are other serious crimes to be prosecuted, which he has dodged and is nowhere to be seen.

He added that while his case is all political, it is bad that the government is using the Judiciary to prosecute a political opponent — something that is “not good for our democracy, and not good for our country.”

But Cllr. Cephus thinks this should not be the case as he wrote in further defense of the government’s involvement in the case. 

The Solicitor-General added that the government should not be blamed for the prosecution of Cummings and others accused, but rather his former fellow leaders from the CPP, including former VP Boakai.

“Nobody should blame the Republic of Liberia for whatever happened in the CPP or with the CPP but the CPP leaders themselves. And for this reason, sanctions or no sanctions, trust me, the Cummings trial will go on and I will not be distracted or deterred by the unruly and rowdy demands to drop the case in the face of the compelling evidence until justice is served.” Cllr. Cephus wrote in his 1,900-word defense on Facebook as an addition to his interview on April 19.

“Whatever the case, I am not only baffled but sadly ruffled by the scale of lies and the misinformation being spread about the alleged political superiorities of some of their political leaders and their connections here, followed by their brazen attempts to force me to cow with the aids of [boll] weevils, carpetbaggers and bootlickers in the system trying to wreck the trial in exchange of whatever is being offered.   

Cummings, along with his party chair, Senator Daniel Naatehn, and Secretary-General Aloysius Toe, are being prosecuted by the government based on a complaint from Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party for forgery and criminal conspiracy, regarding alleged tampering with the CPP’s framework agreement. 

The ANC leader and co-defendants have denied the charges and accused the government of political witch-hunting and a politically motivated conspiracy with ALP. 

Urey and the government claim that Cummings and his co-accused, in 2020 up to and including July 2020, violated section 15.70 of the New Penal Law of Liberia, by having purposely connived and conspired, to jointly alter the framework documents of the CPP. 

The claims also stated that the defendants, out of deception, surreptitiously altered the same, thereby making it appear that the party has formally resolved that issue and others appertaining thereto. 

Urey, meanwhile, is expected to appear in Court today — the Monrovia City Court — to take the witness stand to testify about his accusation against Cummings as it relates to the alleged tampering with the framework document of the CPP. 

Cummings, however, having been granted an excuse by the judge, will not be in Court to hear the testimony of his main accuser, Urey, whose complaint formed the basis of the trial. Stipendiary Magistrate Jomah Jallah granted Cummings three weeks’ leave of absence — a decision that prosecutors objected to, demanding that Cummings be present at every stage of the case.

Meanwhile, Boakai has defended his testimony in court as one done in the best interest of the country, and not Cummings.  

Boakai’s testimony came as a result of subpoenas from the Monrovia City Court, which compelled him to appear and testify, to his knowledge, whether the CPP framework document was altered by Cummings and his co-defendants as alleged by Urey.

 “I have been called here to testify to what I know about the CPP Framework document, to which I affixed my signature. I said what I know about this document in the interest of the country,” Boakai said at the end of his testimony.  

He added that his presence in court for three days was to respect the rule of law and to ensure that he is law-abiding and ensure that the law prevailed.

The CPP was once made of the UP,  Liberty Party, ANC, and the ALP. However, the UP, ALP, and a faction of LP have all withdrawn from the opposition collaboration on grounds that the framework document was forged by Cummings, and his partisans — a charge the ANC has denied.