Following a unanimous guilty verdict against two Lebanese nationals by jurors of Criminal Court ‘E’, a judge has accepted the men’s request for a “New Trial” filed on their behalf by their lawyers.
Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson, on Tuesday, January 7 over turned the guilty verdicts against Mr. Dib Kassabli and his son Anthony Kassabli for gang rape.
Chapter 22 of the Criminal Procedure Law provides that “when a verdict has been rendered against the defendant, the court, on motion of the defendant, may grant a New Trial on any of the grounds specific in paragraph 2 of the section”.
The jury convicted the two men on December 31, 2013 of all the charges, including illicit trafficking of human beings, migrant smuggling, felonious restraint, gang rape, and illegal possession of a firearm.
They were charged for allegedly transporting five Moroccan women into Liberia for the purpose of exploitation.
The defendants denied the allegations when they first appeared before Judge Johnson.
But lawyers for the defense, in their 11-count request, argued that the jurors failed to take into account that no evidence was produced, particularly against the convicted men, proving that they gang raped any of the alleged victims.
They further argued that the jurors failed and neglected to take into account that no medical report was introduced into evidence to establish that any of the alleged victims was sexually exploited.
According to them, the prosecution during the trial failed to identify any place where the alleged gang rape happened and if the defendants participated, since the victims themselves did not say the defendants had sexual intercourse with them.
They even contended that the jurors failed to take into account the inconsistencies between and among the prosecution’s witness, which they claimed created doubt as to the “truthfulness” of the witnesses’ testimonies.
“For example, the two police detectives' (who conducted the criminal investigation) statements did not corroborate the witnesses’ story,” the lawyers pointed out in the motion.
The case was established when the Kassablis were arrested in July 2013 and later indicted by the government of Liberia on four counts of gang rape, illicit human trafficking, and possession and sale of a physical object for lethal use.
In the indictment, the government alleged that the defendants, along with one Madam Habba Kou Kawar, recruited and transported five Moroccan women into Liberia to use them as sex workers.
It further stated that the defendants operated a Bar and Restaurant on Center Street, where they used the Moroccans as sex workers in violation of the law.
In conclusion, the indictment says, the defendants took away the girls’ passports and other travel documents and failed to pay them as promised.