Solicitor General Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo yesterday refuted an allegation by Cllr. Alfred Brownell, an environmental lawyer and lead campaigner of Green Advocates that plainclothes police officers, believed to have acted on an order of the government, attempted to arrest him, forcing him to go into hiding.
Cllr. Blamo, in her clarification, said Cllr. Brownell was contacted by the Government of the Kingdom of Netherlands in 2004 to collate (gather) deposition (testimony) from Liberians to support their case against Gus Van Kouwenhoven, the former head of the Oriental Timber Company (OTC) working in Liberia during the regime of former President Charles Taylor.
She explained that Brownell was successful to have collected depositions from several Liberians, including Brownell himself, on whose testimonies Kouwenhoven was arrested on March 18, 2005, in The Netherlands.
In July 2011, following Brownell’s presentation of the depositions, Cllr. Blamo said the government of The Netherlands, relying on a treaty signed between the two governments in 1895, asked the Liberian government to help facilitate the deposition process.
According to her, since the treaty expressly mandates and requires that a request for taking deposition in Liberia must fully comply with the laws of Liberia, they chose to ask those whose depositions Brownell took to appear at the Criminal Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice to provide their testimonies.
Before that, Cllr. Blamo said, on February 16, 2012, the government filed a petition to the court to take the deposition of Brownell and other would-be witnesses.
“That request was granted and the first deposition was done in 2012 and the second one was also done in 2013,” the Solicitor General said.
She said in October of this year, the court began to take the third deposition, of which Brownell would have been among 14 persons to have testified.
According to Cllr. Blamo, during the exercise, which should have lasted for a week, one of the prospective witnesses, Cllr. Powo C. Hilton, who was one of Brownell’s associates, gave his deposition.
Unfortunately, she said, when it was time for Brownell to provide his deposition, he was nowhere to be found, meaning that he had escaped the process.
“The most frustrating part was that the prosecutors from the Government of The Kingdom of The Netherlands were in the country to take back those depositions, especially from Brownell,” Cllr. Lamin said.
“Since the process was expected to have ended last Friday and Brownell could not show-up, it was then that the court decided to issue a writ of arrest for contempt of court against Brownell,” the Solicitor General clarified Brownell’s allegation arrest.
“Why should we look for Brownell when the process has been completed and those who willingly gave their testimonies were taken and given to the prosecutors from The Netherlands? Nobody is hunting to arrest him and therefore he should not make to appear that the government is hunting for him, which is a big lie,” she said.
The writ of contempt issued to arrest Brownell from Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie read, “Brownell and the others named should be brought forthwith to show cause why they cannot be held in contempt of court for their failure and refusal to attend court and subsequently obstruct court’s precepts.”
Cllr. Hilton’s deposition, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, quoted him as saying, “In 2004, I associated with the Green Advocates with Cllr. Alfred Brownell as executive director who called me and two other persons, one Silas, and he introduced me to Silas at that time.
“Silas is from the Sustainable Development Institute and he asked that both of us must go to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, and talk to residents on the operations of OTC.
“Both of us went to Buchanan, we stayed a week and gathered those statements from those we spoke with.
“We came back to Monrovia and delivered the documents to Brownell. Alfred did not tell us, and we had no information as to the reasons behind the work that he sanctioned us to do.”