President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in keeping with her constitutional mandate over the weekend granted executive clemency to four of nine incarcerated Grand Gedeans who were sentenced to life for mercenary activities in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire in 2011 and 2012.
Those set free from the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP) are Ophoree Diah, Emmanuel Saymah, Jacob Saydee and Moses Bayee.
President Sirleaf admonished them to endeavor to be good and law-abiding citizens by helping their communities to promote peace as well as to help report and prevent crimes.
“As I grant you clemency today, let me urge you to return to your respective communities with positive attitudes and serve as good ambassadors for the promotion of peace and national development,” she told them.
She called on them to think and act positively and seek to be patriotic and Liberian nationalists, urging them to be good ambassadors for reconciliation and national healing across Liberia.
“You all need to know that you committed a crime, came before the court of law and were found guilty. What we are doing here now is an act of goodwill based on your behavior after conviction. So, by the virtue of the authority granted me by the constitution, I hereby set you free and may God be with you,” President Sirleaf concluded.
During the trial, supporters were of the opinion that it was a political ‘witch hunt’ against the Krahn group – the ethnicity of former President Samuel Doe.
All thirteen pardoned by the president were released from three prison facilities in Monrovia, Buchanan and Sanniquellie.
In 2014 a six-man jury rendered the 13 men guilty of the crime of being mercenaries after more than four hours of arguments between the prosecution and defense counsels. Six of the nine-member jury overwhelmingly came down with a verdict that the 13 men were guilty.
Out of the 19 defendants initially indicted by Criminal Court ‘D’, five were set free for lack of evidence, while one was allowed bail before trial.
Upon their conviction, many Liberians called on the government to pardon them, including Maryland County District #2 Representative Bhofal Chambers. The lawmaker had on several occasions called on the president to grant the convicts clemency.
He had contended that the detention of the 13 Grand Gedeans undermined reconciliation in the country.
Chambers observed during a press conference in Monrovia that the release of the four men would further enhance national reconciliation and foster peace and harmony in the wake of the departure of UNMIL.
Chambers is the Chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security. He said the release of the Grand Gedeans by the Executive will help improve relations between President Sirleaf and the people of Grand Gedeh County.
A group of Nimba citizens who were convicted for vandalizing the property of ArcelorMittal Liberia in Yekepa, Nimba County, were also pardoned and released from the Buchanan Central Prison. They were Wuo Gballah, Oretha Gono, Yei Dokie, Peter Zuweh and Jerome Zuweh.
Others released from the Sanniquellie and Monrovia Central Prisons are Prince Sayemie, Victoria Dolo, Hassan Morris and Kou Saye.