On Friday, May 9, Criminal Court “D” at the Temple of Justice released five of the 18 men on trial for alleged mercenary activities in neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire.
The acquittal of the five men stems from the fact that of government’s 11 witnesses who testified throughout the proceedings, none mentioned their names or linked any of them to the crime.
In his ruling Friday, Judge Emery Paye praised the prosecution team for showing what he (Paye) termed in his ruling as “a mark of professionalism,” after lawyers for the State admitted failure to establish the connection of the five to the commission of the crime of mercenarism in that neighboring republic.
In closing arguments on May 8th, 2014, prosecution had told the Court: “Co-defendants Timothy Barlee, Fred Chelly, Christopher Larkpeh, Junior Gelor and Emmanuel Pewee had not been mentioned by the witnesses that had been available to testify before the court. Accordingly…, the Republic of Liberia reluctantly submits that the five co-defendants, if the court so desire, are the subject of release under the motion for judgment for acquittal as filed only.”
Judge Paye responded: “This submission, in the mind of the court, is a concession of the prosecution to respect count 17 of movants’ motion. This bold step taken by the prosecution is a mark of professionalism which brings to mind that the prosecution has no desire to persecute; but rather to create a level playing field in the trial of the defendants.”
In the Court’s ruling in favor of the motion for Judgment of Acquittal, Judge Paye said that on May 1, the defendants, by and thru their counsels, filed a 19-count motion for judgment of acquittal in favor of the 18 defendants in the dock.
“The movants’ ground for the motion is that the respondent/prosecution has failed miserably to have established the prima facie (open and shut, bearing sufficient evidence at face value to establish a fact unless disproven) case against the defendants.”
The Judge went on to say that the defense team had emphasized in their motion for Judgment of Acquittal, that during the entire case presented by the respondent, no witness had testified against defendants namely, Timothy Barlee, Fred Chelly, Christopher Larkpeh, Junior Gelor, Emmanuel Pewee, Sam Tarley and Prince Youtey. Hence, those seven men should be set free.
Delivering the Court’s decision on the plea, Judge Emery Paye declared that “defendants Timothy Barlee, Fred Chelly, Christopher Larkpeh, Junior Gelor and Emmanuel Pewee's, plea is hereby granted.”
He further declared, “Having granted their request, the offense of mercenarism with which they are charged is hereby ordered dismissed and are hereby ordered released from further detention.”
In enforcing his order, he ruled: “The Clerk of this Court is hereby ordered to prepare a release, place same in the hands of the Sheriff of this court, who is also ordered to proceed to the Monrovia Central Prison to effect the immediate release of the defendants.”
Denying the other two defendants’ request, however, the Judge declared: “As for the other defendants, Sam Tarley and Prince Youtey, their plea is hereby denied under the circumstance. It is alleged that they made confession in their voluntary statements before the police, when they were arrested. From testimonies of prosecution’s witnesses before the court, as observed on records," he added, "they were linked to the crime.”
“Therefore,” the Criminal Court Judge further declared, “They are hereby granted the opportunity to take the stand in their own defense. Thereafter, the jury being trial of facts, will be placed in a better position to determine otherwise.”
“From the perusal of the records by the court," Judge Paye added, it is observed that in the statements of defendant Ofori Diah, he did link defendant Sam Tarley. Also in the statement of defendant Emmanuel Saymah and the testimony of Paschal Kollie, defendant Prince Youtey was also linked. Accordingly, the court proceeds with the contention of the prosecution.”
The 18 men were arrested between 2011 and 2012, and charged with the crime mercenarism for allegedly staging cross border raid into neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire, where several persons, including seven United Nations peacekeepers were reportedly killed.
The men denied the claim when they first appeared in court.