Hundreds of sympathizers of detained talk show host, Henry Costa, described as “disappointing” Judge Peter Gbeneweleh’s decision to postpone his ruling on whether or not to release Costa.
At yesterday’s hearing, the courtroom of Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice was overcrowded with many people expecting to witness Judge Gbeneweleh ordering the Liberia National Police (LNP) to release from further detention Mr. Costa, who was arrested on Saturday, February 7.
To their great disappointment, however, Judge Gbeneweleh announced he was unable to come down with any order because he did not prepare a written judgment in a writ of “Habeas Corpus,” that compelled authorities of the LNP to surrender Costa to the court.
“The court has heard the argument between the parties; and we can’t make any ruling (judgment), because it is not written and we have been advised by the Supreme Court not to make any unwritten ruling,” the Criminal Court ‘C’ judge clarified.
He added, I’m going to reserve it for Thursday, February 12, at which time, I would have completed it.”
He concluded by instructing the Sheriffs of the court to “take care of Costa until the Thursday’s judgment. Matter is suspended.”
Prior to that action, Judge Gbeneweleh listened to arguments between Costa’s legal team, headed by Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, and those of the state about the writ.
A writ of habeas corpus (court order) commands an individual or a government official, who has restrained another to produce the prisoner at a designated time and place so that the court can determine the legality of custody and decide whether to order the prisoner's release.
It also directs a person, usually a prison warden, to produce the prisoner and justify the prisoner's detention. If the prisoner argues successfully that the incarceration is in violation of a constitutional right, the court may order the prisoner's release.
Interestingly, the Sheriff, in whose care Judge Gbeneweleh placed Costa, is an employee of the Ministry of Justice which opted for his prosecution. However, Costa is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Police, but that of the Court.
Many feared that he would be kept at the notorious Monrovia Central Prison to await the ruling. However, Cllr. Gongloe told the Daily Observer yesterday that Costa was signed for by his legal counsel, to go home and reappear on Thursday, February 12, for the court’s ruling.
In their argument, Cllr. Gongloe said that defendant Costa had been detained beyond the constitutional period of 48 hours.
He further argued that Costa has not been charged by the police, and besides he had been denied access to a lawyer, as provided for under the law.
In his counter argument, Cllr. Daku Mulbah, County Attorney for Montserrado County said that the police had not completed their investigation of Costa.
“We are still conducting an investigation into the matter, therefore, we could not formally charge Costa,” Cllr. Mulbah told the court.
Giving details of Costa’s arrest, Cllr. Mulbah explained that he was arrested because he had earlier refused when he was invited by the police and has been escaping from justice, contrary to reports that he was arrested, because he broke the 12a.m to 6a.m curfew imposed by the government.
Cllr. Mulbah said, “It is not because he broke the curfew; it is because he failed to attend an invitation from the police to appear before it and to make some clarity on the case of Sam Fawah, a Lebanese national.”
Sam is one of the owners of the SSF Construction Company, operating in the country.