Gov’t Confiscates Court’s Files for 20 Jailed Protesters

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(From left) County Attorney Edwin Martin, accused of confiscating court's files of 20 jailed protesters; Magistrate Kennedy Peabody is accused of facilitating Cllr. Martin's action

-Cllr. Supuwood claims, as Magistrate Kennedy Peabody admits

Lawyers representing 20 jailed protesters and Montserrado District #10 Lawmaker Yekeh Kolubah (not detained) have to wait on a decision of Criminal Court ‘A’ to see whether the court can prevail on Magistrate Kennedy Peabody of the Monrovia City Court to reverse the magistrate’s action to surrender the case files to the Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Edward Martin, one of prosecutors’ lead lawyers, without their knowledge.

This was due to a decision on Tuesday, June 11 by Magistrate Peabody to transfer the case files without a preliminary examination of the charges brought against the defendants by the Liberia National Police (LNP) to the county attorney.

The defendants, most of whom are students of the University of Liberia (UL) were charged for their alleged individual roles played on June 5, when Montserrado County District #10 Rep. Yekeh Kolubah’s supporters protested against the Police invitation of the lawmaker based on allegations that he ordered the flogging of a man believed to be a resident of Gaye Town, Old Road where Kolubah also resides.

The 20 are facing charges that range from terroristic threats, criminal facilitation, aggravated assault and felonious restraint, all of which are bailable offenses.

Magistrate Peabody had earlier scheduled the matter for hearing on Tuesday, June 11, by 9AM, a communication emanating from the Monrovia City Court and obtained by the Daily Observer revealed.

In a summary proceedings complaint filed before Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie against the attitude of the magistrate, the lead defense lawyer, Laveli Supuwood, claimed that when they arrived for the bond hearing on yesterday, Tuesday, June 11, to their surprise Magistrate Peabody informed them that he had turned over the case files to the County Attorney of Montserrado.

The reason, according to Cllr. Supuwood quoting Magistrate Peabody, “it was for the purpose to prepare an indictment against the defendants.”

Cllr. Supuwood also argued that the defendants had been in jail for seven days on the orders of Magistrate Peabody.

However, Peabody admitted granting Martin’s approval to take possession of the case files because he filed an application requesting the use of the case files to indict the defendants. Peabody, according to a document obtained by the Daily Observer, had earlier scheduled the matter for hearing on Tuesday, June 11, at 9AM.

“I scheduled the matter for today, but the county attorney came early and filed the application to transfer the case to the Grand Jury for Montserrado County for indictment,” Peabody maintained, adding “This is a case beyond my jurisdiction and as such I have to transfer it immediately. That was why I agreed to give the document to the county attorney.”

According to Magistrate Peabody, on Monday, June 10, he attempted releasing the defendants to a member of the defense team, Cllr. Finley Y. Karngar, but Karngar refused to accept his offer. However, Karngar has so far denied the allegations.

“Karngar and I are best friends and we both graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, and so, I decided to release the defendants into his care and he refused to take the offer,” Peabody claimed.

Peabody quoted Cllr. Karngar saying,” Karngar told me that he was refusing my offer so that the World can see that President George Weah’s government was keeping political prisoners.”

Magistrate Peabody claimed Karnga’s response annoyed him so much that he had to cut short the discussion with him. The Magistrate however did not say whether that was the reason for his decision to allow Cllr. Martin take custody of his court’s document.

Further, Cllr. Supuwood complained that the procedure adopted by the court was unusual because there was no evidence or record of any application from the county attorney for the turnover of the case files, adding, “Certainly, there is no notice to the defense team of said application.”

Further according to Cllr. Supuwood “The action of the court deprives the defense team opportunity for preliminary examination, especially when Magistrate Peabody had issued and served a notice of assignment for Tuesday, June 11 at 9AM,” Supuwood’s complaint noted.

The complaint maintained that to give the court’s files to the county attorney where the defendants have not been made to answer to the charges was a violation of 12.4 of the Criminal Procedure Law.

The law states that, “After the conclusion of the preliminary examination, if the defendants have been held to answer, the magistrate or justice of the peace shall transmit forthwith to the clerk of the Circuit Court having jurisdiction of the offense all papers in the proceeding and any bail which has been taken. The record of the testimony of the witnesses taken at the examination shall be signed and certified by him.”

Supuwood argued that Magistrate Peabody turned over the court’s files directly to the county attorney without a hearing or any information or records to the defense team.

Therefore, the complaint argued, “reverse Magistrate Peabody’s action of transferring the case file without a hearing or records to the county attorney office to resume jurisdiction and have hearing to the notice of assignment, so as to give the defendants an opportunity to preliminary examination.”

Judge Willie is yet to set any date for hearing of the complaint against Magistrate Peabody. But a lawyer (name withheld) told the Daily Observer that Magistrate Peabody’s action simply reaffirms what national and international human rights groups have long maintained that in Liberian courts of law, justice is for sale to the highest bidder.

Moreover, he maintained that Magistrate Peabody’s action should be not surprising because the judiciary has historically been an appendage of the Executive, obeying debased commands rather than serving unfettered and unadulterated justice to all without fear or favor.

In the case at bar, the lawyer argued, Magistrate Peabody has, in violation of the law caved in to the whims of an Executive seemingly anxious to prove that it can be tough, adding that although Magistrate Peabody is fully aware and knowledgeable of the law, he acted as such to avoid the wrath of the powers that be.

6 COMMENTS

  1. That Magistrate knows exactly what is the right thing to do, but if the Executive branch of government can come up with trump-up charges and bribed the Liberian senate to impeach an Associate Justice of the Honorable Supreme Court, who was considered as a critical voice on the bench or an elephant or the boss of the Magistrate, who is a poor Magistrate willing to lose his job for this issue. Take it or leave it, This manor case might even go to the Supreme Court, because all of the Judges will be afraid to handle it.
    This is an issue that COP should handle very critically, if not the ordinary Liberian will never see Justice in this country, until another civil crisis erupt again.

  2. The beginning of the establishment of what others see as ” Political Prisoners ” developing in the country . The political confiscation of court documents by the regime, is meant to torture the mental state of the student’s minds as political prisoners of the regime. The Independent Human Rights Commission and the Liberian Red Cross are backing away from this one. They should be the first to carry medical doctors to check on the health of the students as political prisoners of the regime. With in two years, the Chosen Son of the soil is taking the nation back in the days of its ugly past.

  3. It’s unfortunate that folks that folks just mentioned the repercussions of the act and omit the reasons that led to the incarcerations of some disgruntle students. The students made a road block on Capitol Bye-Pass at the front gate of the University of Liberia which was wrong and lawless to the highest order. So are we having a nation where disagreement with government policies would justify criminal acts? The law needs to have preeminence in situation where students from one of the nation’s highest institution of learning would embark on the lawless ploy of impeding the freedom of movement of other innocent Liberians by mounting road block on the main street. I can recall in 2014 when students again went on the rampage and ransacked the living quarters of the former Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Wade Elloitt-Brownell, at the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia. Luckily for her, a tip-off was given and she left secretly and went to the main campus and was barricaded in the Administrated Building. The disgruntle students later pursued her to the main campus, they began stoning and breaking windshields of cars parked on the main campus. Some of us were lucky to act fast by removing our cars from the campus and parked at the ministry of Foreign Affairs. Because Dr. Brownell was pushing rigorous restructuring of the Academic Affairs Department, some student falling into disagreement went on the rampage, meting out lawlessness.

    So, is that the path the should be pursue whenever folks differ with policies?

    This same lawless approach to change led to the destruction of our already poor, third world country, yet some people see it justifiable to continue to destroy it further in the name of opposition to government [wrong] policies.

    These disgruntle students should face the full weight of the law.

    In the name of change, so-called opposition to tyranny by Samuel Doe, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf created the NPFL, recruited Charles Taylor, Benoni Urey, Yekeh Kolubah, Sando Johnson and many others to remove Doe by sacrificing the lives of over half of the innocent population. The method of change killed over half of the very people they claimed to be liberating.

    Today we see some of those same people now coming back again to claim to be liberators, like they did in 1990. They now have students mounting road blocks, impeding freedom of movement in the name of change.

    • It was a political protest, they did not killed , they did not steal 16 billion dollars in local currency or US 25 million dollars that both investigations clearly point to few dismissed employees, while others are still in the high profile government positions . Those the regime wanted to make example of by temporarily putting them behind bars are out on bail. So why should the regime confiscate the court documents that calls for bail to be posted. The high profile regime employees involved in the country’s financial resources that were indicted by the two audit reports, are they above the law? And why is it that those indicted and sent to jail can be freed while on bail, and the students cannot obtain bail ? What is the terrible crime that they have committed ? Even if someone was assaulted in their political protest, they are still entitled to their bail. By the regime denying them their right to post bail, makes them ” Political Prisoners ” of the regime. No matters how you want to magnify the alleged political disturbances as major crimes, once those disturbances under the law are set for bail , and the students are not a danger to themselves or the public or flight risk they should by now be out on bail. That is the issue that the article is presenting . That is, if all Liberians are equal under the law.

  4. Well, first you need to know that mounting barricade on the busy main street thereby impeding free movement is a criminal offense, so they don’t necessarily need to kill before the offense can be considered criminal. So now vandalism should go with impunity when it comes under the guise of political protest.

    The students have rights to seek redress, so they should rather go to the compound of the capitol building, the executive mansion and whatever other government functionary that may be responsible to address their plights. They don’t need to block the streets and impede the rights of others.

    Their claims may have a high overtone of validity, so they must go directly to whoever in the government deemed responsible to address those cardinal issues they are raising.

    One thing I know from an empirical factor regarding the historicity of political oppositions in Liberia is that the oppositions always behaved as though they have the answers but when called to the tour of duty, the do far less than the government they criticized. It happened to the likes of Dr. Togbah Nah Togboteh, Chea Cheppo, Bachus Matthews, Dr. H.B. Fahnbulleh Jr. and many others. It also happened to the likes of Charles Taylor, Benoni Urey, and company. It happened to the like s of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. It is now happening to President George Weah.

    The only thing the oppositions have been able to do so well was to take advantage of the plight of the masses and use them to foster their political interests.

    If oppositions meant very well for Liberians as they pretend to be, while serving as oppositions, they will pursue a positive path to change by adding force to the private sector like building schools (academic and trade), build permanent health centers (like clinics and hospitals), get indulged in agriculture projects to improve or reestablish farmers’ cooperatives, and many other positive productive imperatives.

    Such initiatives will provide a better solutions rather than mounting roadblocks which will get us nowhere.

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