The grounds of the Temple of Justice was yesterday crowded with family members in tears, when the Supreme Court sentenced to life imprisonment nine of the 13 persons convicted of mercenary activities by Criminal Court ‘D’.
The court acquitted the four remaining defendants.
They were initially convicted in June 2014 and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment by then Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘D’ for launching cross-border raids during which seven United Nations peacekeepers in Ivory Coast died.
But the judgment was rejected by the defendants’ legal team, who immediately filed an appeal.
Delivering yesterday’s decision, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor clarified that four of the accused members were acquitted because the prosecution failed to meet the mandatory standard for establishing evidence against them.
“Therefore,” the Chief Justice declared, “the judgment of Criminal Court ‘D’ entered against the four is hereby reversed and they are to be immediately released from detention.”
Those acquitted are Isaac Taryon (alias Wolie), Prince Youty, James Lee Cooper and Sam Tarley (alias Bull Dog).
Sentencing the nine to life imprisonment, Justice Korkpor explained that their testimonies were insufficient to warrant the reversal of the judgment entered against them by Criminal Court ‘D’.
He added that “their voluntary statements made when they were investigated by the Liberia National Police and in the presence of their lawyers actually connected them to the commission of the crime of mercenarism, of which they were charged.
“They are adjudged guilty of the crime of mercenarism and sentenced to life imprisonment.”
The nine that will be spending the rest of their lives at the Monrovia Central Prison include; Nyazee Barway (alias Joseph Dweh); Morris K. Cole (alias Edward Cole/General Girl); Steven Gloto (alias Rambo/Ninja); Emmanuel Saymah (alias Trainer); Moses Baryee (alias Moses Sarpee); Sam Ofori Diah; Alfred Bobby James Jr. (alias Bobby Sarpee); Jacob Saydee; and Mohammed Massaquoi.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court fined one of the prosecution’s lead counsels, Theophilus Gould, for utterances during the trial at Criminal Court ‘D.’
According to Justice Korkpor, Cllr. Gould at the trial threatened the jury that if they were to acquit the defendants, Ivory Coast would declare war on Liberia.
“Cllr. Gould’s statement was outrageous and out of place and did not represent a lawyer, especially Cllr Gould who served as former president of the Liberian National Bar Association,” Justice Korkpor noted.
He added, “Cllr. Gould is hereby fined US$500 to be paid into government revenue within 72 hours.”
The case emerged in 2013 when the Liberian government indicted the 13 defendants for their alleged involvement in a series of attacks in neighboring Ivory Coast from 2011 to 2012.
Prosecution claimed that during the incidents the defendants burned houses, murdered civilians and raped women.
Court documents further allege that the defendants launched the raids on Ivorian villages, including Tai and Para in June 2012, leaving seven United Nations peacekeepers from Niger dead.