Liberia: Ex-Sierra Leone Police Chief Extradited to Face Alleged Coup Plot Charges

Mohammed Yaetey Turay, a former  Chief Superintendent of the Sierra Leonean Police

…. But INCHR raises alarm about violations of international treaties

The government of Liberia has extradited former Chief Superintendent of the Sierra Leonean Police, Mohammed Turay, whom President Julius Maada Bio claimed was involved in the planning of a coup plot that recently failed in that country.

Turay, who has been residing in Liberia since March 2022, after he was dismissed from the Sierra Leone Police in May 2020, was recently arrested by the Liberia National Police on the orders of Bio’s government — which made a formal request for him to be turned over for investigation and possible prosecution.

President George Weah's administration heeded the extradition request on Tuesday. The government said in a release that it decided to banish Turay from the country following preliminary investigations and also based on assurances it received from its Sierra Leonean counterpart that his rights will be protected.

“The Sierra Leone government gave us assurances that the rights of the accused will be respected, including his rights to a free, fair, and speedy trial. And based on an investigation that we conducted, it is appropriate to hand over Turay as requested,” the release said.

Turay’s extradition, the government added, is in keeping with the laws of Liberia and the 1986 Non-Aggression Security Treaty entered into by the Governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

“The decision is also in line with the 1994 Ecowas Convention.” Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie said in the press statement.

Prior to his arrest, Turay had lived with his family in Liberia for nearly a year in the Brewerville community suburb of Monrovia. He was extradited barely 24 hours after the Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Alhaji Sesay requested Criminal Court ‘A’ to subpoena the two leading GSM companies in the country to provide the former Police Chief’s call logs for investigation.

The subpoena request focused on Turay call logs from the period of June 1 to August 4 — “the period of the planning of the alleged coup and after it was foiled.”

“The situation of coup in the sub-region is worrisome, and with our elections on hand, we have to jealously protect our democracy during this difficult period,” Sesay said, adding that his office is prepared and ready to legally cooperate with any country to extradite any of “their citizens in Liberia” based on subversive activities.

However, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INHCR) told the government not to extradite Turay but the Weah administration did not listen.

According to INHCR, the Government should have strongly considered international human rights obligations before considering the request to extradite  Turay. 

“Recollecting that both Sierra Leone and Liberia are signatories to several regional and international instruments including the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the ECOWAS Convention on Extradition, the INCHR notes that extradition shall not be granted if the offense in respect of which is requested is regarded as a political offense or as an offense connected with a political offense.

“The extradition should not happen if there are substantial grounds for believing that a request for extradition for an ordinary criminal offense has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of race, tribe, religion, nationality, political opinion, sex, or status,” the Commission said.

The government action, according to INHCR, would lead to the possibility where Turay is subject to torture or cruel, inhumane punishment — which will violate Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights or other fundamental principles of human rights.

“Also, under our Criminal Procedure Law, Section 8.3 and the Geneva Convention which Liberia signed and ratified. The Republic of Liberia should not honor the request of the Sierra Leone Government to extradite Turay because there is no extradition agreement between the two countries,”  the Commission added,

‘One-Sided Friendship’

While the Weah administration is heeding the request of its Sierra Leonean counterpart without any hesitation, his government complained of disrespect when he made a similar request to the Bio administration in January 2020 to have popular talk-show host, Henry Costa, extradited after he allegedly evaded justice here and surfaced in Freetown. 

The Sierra Leonean government rejected the extradition request and rather gave the green light for Costa to fly from Freetown to the United States.

Sierra Leone Information Minister then, Mohammed Swaray told the BBC Focus on Africa program: “We just want to ensure that we fulfill his rights, he himself can attest to that, he’s been very well treated, we cannot take dictation from any other government, we’re a democracy, and we value that. 

“We have struggled far too long for democracy and this government is noted for its very strong democratic credentials so we will not do anything on the contrary. So, as soon as we have gone through the process, we will do what we have to do.”