Over one hundred persons who turned out yesterday at Criminal Court ‘C’ to listen to the opening of the Global Witness alleged bribery case, could not believe when only one of the eight defendants attended the trial.
The absence of seven defendants’, including Senator Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County), did not go down well with Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, who later fined them US$200 each.
Judge Gbeisay also threatened to re-arrest the defendants if they were to challenge the court’s authority by not attending today’s rescheduled hearing.
The criminal court judge clarified that his decision did not affect Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County, who, according to Gbeisay, was not aware of the hearing.
Saytumah was then Minister of State, Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs in the office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, when the Global Witness report alleged the defendants received US$950, 000 as bribes from Sable Mining, a UK based company, to award the Wologizi Mountain concession agreement to the company without going through the Public Procurement Concession Commission procedure.
Former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler was the only one seen sitting in the dock throughout the brief deliberation.
Before Gbeisay’s action, another defendant, Richard Tolbert, former chairman of the National Investment Commission, had earlier reported for the trial, but, was later advised by his lawyer to go back home, which he did.
Further to Gbeisay’s judgment, he explained that on March 3, his court issued an order directing all parties to show up for the hearing by 9 a.m. yesterday.
“It is 10:09 a.m. and at the call of the case only defendant Alex Tyler is in the dock without any justification why the other defendants are not in court,” Gbeisay said, before his action.
“The defendants are all prominent citizens of this country and under our law, if they are simply accused and not convicted their rights are to be respected by this court.
“For this trial they are under the obligation to respect the mandate of the court, because the assignment clearly calls for the start of the case,” he added.
However, he noted, “this action being the first time, the court will not do the obvious thing to set their bail aside and have them rearrested, but we hope that said action will not be repeated.”