All hell broke loose at the Temple of Justice on Tuesday, December 31, when 18 men on trial for their alleged involvement in mercenary activities in neighboring La Cote d’ Ivoire, took the law into their own hands by vandalizing several pieces properties belonging to the Criminal Court ‘D’.
During the melee that ensued, one of the men striped himself naked as they went about destroying a number of chairs, tables, and benches, in the courtroom.
Those in court in connection to the case as well court workers, took to their heels to avoid getting hurt by the prisoners’ violent behavior.
The 18 defendants also clashed with a platoon of riot police from Liberia National Police (LNP) who were called to restore order.
The police swung into action and quickly took control of the situation, re-arresting the 18 ‘protesters.’
The men were later transferred to the back of a waiting van and driven back to their cell at the Monrovia Central Prison, where they had been awaiting trial since 2011.
Tuesday’s courtroom fracas took place minutes 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 they (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 found ourselves prepared to die here today.”
No casualty was reported from the incident.
The protesting detainees had, between 2011 and 2012, been arrested by the Government of Liberia on accusations of fighting alongside forces backing former Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, during an outbreak of violence following elections in that country.
The 18 were also accused of killing seven United Nations peace keepers (all Nigerians).
The accused denied the charges when the case was first heard earlier last year.