Liberia: ‘Unethical, Abuse of Power’

The Minister of Justice Cllr. Frank Musah Dean (right) and Solicitor General Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus.

Gbarpolu County Senator, Daniel Naatehn has complained to the Senate the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Musah Dean and Solicitor General, Cllr. Sayma Syrennius Cephus, for unethical conduct and abuse of power.

Sen. Naatehn, the ANC political leader Alexander Cummings and the party’s Secretary-General, Aloysius Toe, are being prosecuted by the government, based on a complaint from Benoni Urey of the All Liberia Party (ALP) for forgery and criminal conspiracy, regarding the alleged tampering of the CPP’s framework agreement.

The Alternative National Congress leader and co-defendants have denied the charges and accused the government of political witch-hunting and a politically motivated conspiracy between Urey and the ruling CDC.

The Gbarpolu County, who chairs the ANC said the prosecutorial actions of the two senior officials of the Ministry of Justice run counter to the underlying purpose of criminal prosecution and abuse the integrity of the judicial system, and risk plunging Liberia's struggling democracy into increased uncertainty and chaos.

He added that the government prosecution is not only just malicious but is a clearly designed scheme intended to bring him into public disrepute and impede the seamless discharge of his duties as Senator.

“Moreover, it gives an unsavory impression that the government is at war with itself, and further denigrates the image of the country internationally. The Justice Minister has not had any evidence against us for the past four months we have been in court; hence, we consider this as harassment from him and his deputy,” Sen. Naatehn added. 

“Ironically, Solicitor General ascribed unto himself the powers of the prosecutor, Judge, and juror, handing down a guilty verdict and describing me and others as criminals at multiple media appearances," he said. Given the above premises, I request that this body cause the two senior officials of the Ministry of Justice to appear and explain their actions and give reasons why this body and the Liberian people should continue to repose confidence in their ability to properly and impartially discharge their functions and responsibilities.” 

Sen. Naatehn’s complaint comes after Min. Dean has demanded the country's Solicitor General furnish his office with the proper evidence which provides the basis for the prosecution of Cummings and others. Cllr. Dean noted that as the Minister of Justice, he is under obligation to ensure that the purpose of prosecution is not to taint, harass, grandstand, punish or convict, but to pursue the “truth; and that in the instant case, the writ against Cummings and others was never quashed and, therefore, could not have been reinstated by the office of the Minister.”

The Minister of Justice further cautioned that henceforth, the prosecution of all cases must be approved by his office; and prosecutors are advised to furnish the office of the Minister with the proper evidence in support of any and all prosecutions. The country’s Solicitor General had earlier accused the Minister of Justice of deep-rooted conspiracy as it relates to the trial – claiming that he was acting under the instruction of the Minister when he issued the writ of arrest for the political leader of the ANC and his party executives.

Cllr. Cephus marely disclosed that it was the Minister of Justice who ordered the re-issuance of the writ of arrest against Cummings after it was first quashed.

“A lot of misinformation is going on about my role in the Cummings and others trial but the truth is it was the Minister of Justice who ordered the re-issuance of the writ of arrest against them after it was first quashed,” Solicitor-General Cephus wrote, responding to question to Stanton A. Witherspoon, the CEO of Spoon Communication Network, while the ANC political leader was being interviewed on April 24. “I am only a prosecutor who is acting under his control and supervision but he’s afraid to take a firm decision and believes that I will unilaterally abandon the case so that he can use it against me to the government and people of Liberia.”

The spar comes after Cummings vowed to fight efforts by the Ministry of Justice to have him convicted. He argued that he is not just innocent, but subject to wrongful "prosecution". “I am innocent. And I am being wrongfully tried. This is persecution instead of prosecution, but I will win,” Cummings added. “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 and his co-defendants' trial has reached a point where the prosecutor is finding it difficult to have a second witness testify against the defendants. Former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai is the second witness called to testify against Cummings and other members of the ANC and neither he nor his party was aware of any subpoena issued to him to testify in the case.

The Ministry has appealed to Magistrate Jomah Jallah to grant its request for deposition as a means of having the former Vice President Answer questions under oath. The Ministry's appeal was communicated via Cllr. Cephus — asking the Court to have Boakai appear for a deposition as part of the right to preserve testimonial evidence.

Prosecutors are heavily relying on the former VP’s testimony, which is valuable to them in the criminal trial against Cummings and his co-defendants, due to his firsthand knowledge about the CPP framework document, which prosecutors alleged was altered by the defendants. Earlier, Attorney Adolphus Karnuah, a member of the prosecution team, had admitted that they omitted several portions of the social media exchanges, which Magistrate Jallah had confirmed as prosecutors' shreds of evidence in the case.   

Atty. Karnuah's confession came forth when lawyers representing Cummings accused the Solicitor General of extracting from his evidence the exchanges of social media messages between Cummings and other leaders of the CPP in the National Advisory Council chartroom.