Weeks after the Supreme Court sentenced 9 of the 18 detainees charged with mercenarism to life imprisonment, (all of them, hailing from Grand Gedeh County), Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, who served as their lead counsel, is rallying elders and chiefs of the county to mobilize their people to beg President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to grant them clemency.
Cllr. Gongloe informed the Grand Gedeans at an appreciation program held on Sunday, October 23, at the St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, on Lynch Street, in Monrovia that history has shown that President Sirleaf has granted clemency to people convicted of committing serious crimes in the country.
“President Sirleaf granted clemency to 14 young citizens from River Gee County accused of murder which happened without the matter reaching the Supreme Court, because their elders and chiefs quickly mobilized their citizens and they immediately begged the president,” Gongloe informed his audience.
The nine Grand Gedeans were among 18 other defendants arrested by state security in 2011 and 2012 during cross border fracas after a post electoral violence in the Ivory Coast between loyalists of that country’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and those of his successor Alassane Ouattara.
Five of the 18 were acquitted during the trial at the lower court due to lack of evidence to link them to the crime.
Encouraging the elders, when he and other lawyers who represented the detainees were appreciated by the people of Grand Gedeh for their legal services during the trial, Gongloe said he was prepared to personally join a campaign to beg the President.
“Your case is different because it was the Supreme Court that decided the matter, but we can still use the political process to have the President pardon our children,” Cllr. Gongloe emphasized.
It was attended by several prominent citizens of the county, including seasoned politician Gbai Gbala.
Cllr. Gongloe, who hails from Nimba County, said “it can happen only with collective effort and beside that we cannot succeed to free our people from jail. I believe that the judicial process has taken its course; it is now for the political process to set them free.”
According to Gongloe, the trial was the first of its kind he had ever witnessed in the country.
“This is the first time for a country to use its legal process to prosecute its citizens based on an allegation from another country. If this was anything to go by, then our government has set a world record and they don’t need anything more than that,” Gongloe informed the elders and chiefs.
“Our government was only trying to show Cote d’ Ivorie that they would compel its citizens to account for the crime they committed in that country, and they proved their case,” he said.
Backing Cllr, Gongloe’s idea, Mr. Gbala and some of the elders in separate remarks applauded Gongloe and assured that they would do everything possible to mobilize their people to beg President Sirleaf to free their children.
Informing the people about his effort to have the 13 free, Gongloe said “We performed to the best of our ability, but we don’t control over the trial process.
“You do your best, but the jury and the judges also have their part to play. They are not free today, because the Supreme Court heard it differently,” Cllr. Gongloe told the audience
Every December, President Sirleaf in grants clemency to select prison inmates.