GOL Dropped Rape Cases against Foreign Suspects

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Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson has admitted releasing on bail two Lebanese rape convicts and two others suspected of the same crime, despite media reports putting the number higher.
Rape is a non-bailable offense under the new law, but Judge Johnson, who is one of the few female judges in the country, yesterday defended her decision, blaming it on the Liberian government.
According to her, the prosecution informed her that government was not interested in continuing with the cases.
A Lebanese national Jaafar Bashir, 44, who was charged for raping young Liberian children within the age range of 7 and 15, was released on a US$25,000 bail by Judge Johnson.
Another Lebanese, Ali Saksouk, 21, was accused of raping a 13-year old child, but he was also released on bail by Judge Johnson.
Two Lebanese rape convicts, Anthony Kassabli and his father, Dib Edmond Kassabli were convicted of gang rape, but also released by Judge Johnson on bail. Anthony was released for health reasons, while his father was given executive clemency by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
However, in her charge to lawyers, judges, prospective jury and party litigants yesterday at the August 2015 opening of Criminal Courts A, B, C, D and E, Judge Johnson in a strongly worded statement said, “the press published that Lebanese nationals were the only ones who were granted bail in Court ‘E,’ but from the records of the court, out of the forty-two bails granted, only three were Lebanese nationals.”
Criminal Court ‘E’ is solely responsible to hear and decide rape cases.
Judge Johnson clarified that the three Lebanese were freed based upon a state application to ‘nolle prosequi’ (to waive the case), “but the news was that the court was just freeing criminals.”
‘Nolle prosequi’ is an admission made by prosecution that they cannot prove the charges against the defendants, because available evidence demonstrates that an accused is innocent.
The declaration can be made either before or after the start of a trial, meaning the case against the defendant will then be dropped.
Further, in her charge Judge Johnson said the Criminal Court E’s decision was also based on what she considered as “change of venue.”
“When a change of venue was requested and granted, newspapers reported that they will be watching the judge, who transferred the case. If they were to verify the news they would have presented the truth to the general public on the case,” she averred.
She also used the occasion to advise media institutions, saying, “We know that we now have the Freedom of Information Act, but the dignity of the court will, and must at all times be respected. Any reporting that has the tendency to compromise any side of a case is prejudicial to the safety of our land.”
Judge Johnson continued, “We expect you to carefully check your information, balance and or verify them from the court before reporting to the general public.”
Throughout her deliberation, the female Judge did not mention the name of a particular media institution.
Cautioning lawyers earlier, Judge Johnson said they, too, have a responsibility to ensure that respect is given to the courts; therefore, they should avoid unjust causes of unmeritorious reporting.

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