Hit List?

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Officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) barricaded the residence of Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) political leader, Simeon Freeman, on Saturday, describing it as a “crime scene” and denying journalists and other residents access and free movement in and around the area. Heavily armed and creating fear within the community by their presence, the officers were there to arrest the businessman-turned-politician over recent statements accusing the Sirleaf Administration of running a ‘hit list’ against 10 individuals who are opposition figures or critics of the President.

Neighbors of Mr. Freeman told the Daily Observer Saturday, “We saw two vehicles with armed officers early this morning in front of Mr. Freeman’s place. We don’t know why they are here.”

Up to Sunday afternoon, when the police could not get hold of Mr. Freeman, the National Police put out a request for “information from the general public concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Simeon Freeman, leader of the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC).”

According to a Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism (MICAT) release signed by Atty. Isaac W. Jackson, Jr., MICAT Deputy Minister for Press & Public Affairs, Mr. Freeman is wanted by the police to assist with an ongoing investigation prompted by statements attributed to him accusing the Liberian Government of organizing a death squad to eliminate ten (10) leading opposition figures in the country.

The police also want Freeman to further explain his assertion that “if anybody was an enemy to Harry Greaves it was the government.”

Having failed to abide by the police invitation, the release said, a team of police investigators visited Mr. Freeman’s premises to speak with him regarding the ongoing investigation, but he was not seen.

“The claims by Mr. Freeman are very grave and as such, the LNP is entreating the matter with the utmost seriousness it deserves. Hence, the Police encourages Mr. Freeman to cooperate fully by turning himself over to the police; and as well calls on those having information regarding Mr. Freeman’s location to contact the nearest police station,” the statement read.

“MICAT urges that these investigations ought not to reflect on the enviable record of the Liberian Government in protecting freedom of speech and the press,” the Information Ministry said.

Barricade at Freeman’s Residence

The intense police presence at Freeman’s residence drew much attention, including that of the press, and saw its share of altercation in the discharge of duties.

One reporter, who was on the scene taking photos was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the Zone 6 Police Depot in Brewerville by police officers.

“We were about four journalists who arrived and introduced ourselves to the commander in charge,” the reporter later explained.“He welcomed us. And I was in the process of taking some pictures when an officer told me to stop, describing the place as a crime scene.”

He said the officers insisted that he should delete all the photos and was forced to extend apology before he was released.

A TV crew was also chased out of the area by a vehicle belonging to the ERU.

Up to press time Sunday, police officers were still present at Mr. Freeman’s house.

‘Death Squad’ for 10 Politicians?

The episode began last Thursday, February 4, when Mr. Freeman made the claim that the Government of Liberia under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has hired a death squad for ten politicians and critics of her government, including him.

According to Freeman, the President has blacklisted the ten personsto be eliminated before the end of her administration.

“There is a document in blue print for 10 persons to be eliminated,” Freeman said.“And I am afraid because my name is also mentioned because I am critical of the government, [as are] other names including Benoni Urey, George Weah of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Daniel Chea and the lists goes on,” Freeman told journalists last Thursday at his party headquarters in Congo Town.

“There are rumors that the government has formed a death squad. These rumors are all around, even in newspapers, that there is blacklist of critical persons; ten people that are critical of this government. And I am told that I am one of the persons on that list that is supposed to be eliminated,” he claimed.

“This administration is relying on one thing: that Liberians do not hold onto issues too long; that Liberians will talk about things for two weeks and it will go to rest. So, on that basis, it is said that there is a plan to get rid of critical and potential people so that it clears the way for the person who the administration prefers,” Freeman stated.

Speaking on the death of the former LPRC boss Harry Greaves, Freeman said if anybody was an enemy to Harry Greaves, it was the government; and that it was Greaves who discovered that the Liberia Electricity Cooperation (LEC) has no monopoly but has been treated as though it does.

“Seriously, this guy had strong enemies within the structure of the state. With [his] telephone records and the entire structure, obviously and clearly we can see from the way his body appeared, as though something wasted in his face; and according to reports, his anus was perforated, there was a bruise on his head, and I don’t know if fish now have a sharp object,” he said.

The MPC political leader says there has been no progress on the investigation.

He noted that the police are supposed to be protecting citizens, but have lost the confidence of citizens.

“First, let’s look at the investigation methods. Let’s look at the credibility of the police. Recent reports show that many of the top people within the police force are key collaborators of criminals. They have aided and abetted and are facilitating armed robbers; so they have very low credibility.

The MPC political leader says he and many other Liberians have zero confidence in the Sirleaf Administration’s ability to provide security.

“This same police have not been able to solve Michael Allison’s murder, Keith Juba’s murder, the LAC manager’s (Bruno’s) murder, and the Ciapha Gbolee murder. So what confidence do we have that makes us think that the same police will solve this murder of Harry Greaves? Obviously Harry Greaves’ death will linger in the press and after few days, it will be laid to rest,” he projected.

Freeman wondered why Liberians shouldawait the autopsy report, when the autopsy report will only say how the man died but will not explain who killed him, where he was killed, or how.

“So why are we waiting for it, what is happening to this guy’s phone records, why is the hotel still open? The RLJ hotel is a crime scene. When investigating a crime, you can have multiple crime scenes,” he explained.

Freeman is however suggesting that government restores the people’s confidence by allowing independent individuals to form part of the investigation.

“We want to be part of this investigation. Political parties want to be a part of this investigation, and we are suggesting that the MPC wants to be part of this investigation, [as well as the other] political parties… We are also suggesting that civil society, the Council of Churches and other religious groups form part of this investigation. We suggest that the Gbowee Peace Foundation be part of this as well. Let the investigation contain credible strong [entities] that will be part of it; that will review data, review structure… and in that way, the confidence of the public will be restored,” he said.

The MPC political leader also suggested that the investigation review critical phone records, shut down the hotel, and question all of the hotel staffs that were on shift on the day of Greaves’ death.

He advised politicians to be careful with their security.

“I am advising every serious politician or political party and critics to form a serious security network – personnel that will protect them because if you are dead and gone we will only be discussing you. While discussing you, it is the same police force,which is infested, that will be investigating you,” Freeman said.

He urged the government to collaborate with everyone in the process to assure very transparent results that will clear the doubts of citizens in the country.

Dissenting views

Following Freeman’s statements, the Observer contacted two of the major opposition figures mentioned by Freeman as being on the alleged hit list.

Benoni Urey, leader of the All Liberian Party, distanced himself from Freeman’s statements.

“Simeon Freeman should take my name [out of] his mouth,” Urey told the Observer Sunday night.

CDC leader George Weah’s office sent a statement in which the country’s leading opposition party leader expressed his “dismay over the gruesome news of the puzzling circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Harry Greaves, Jr.

“The Senator asserts that the disappearance of Mr. Greaves and the later discovery of his corpse on the beach highlight the delicate state of internal security in Montserrado County and the rest of the country…,” the statement read.

Upon his return, Weah said, he plans to convene “a meeting of the Montserrado County Legislative Caucus to devise a consolidated approach to engaging the nation’s security agencies on recent alarming developments in the country.”

Weah is presently in Abuja attending the inauguration of the Fourth ECOWAS parliament. His office is yet to comment on whether or not the leading opposition figure in the country feels threatened as alleged by Freeman.

Whether or not a hit list exists is yet to be determined. However, rumors have circulated in Monrovia that the alleged hit list is not so much targeting opposition figures, as it is targeting those who could potentially be called upon to testify in an international court of law against this administration with particular regard to allegations of corruption.

If the latter version of the rumor is to be believed, then based on his recent exposés of the inner dealings off the controversial National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Greaves would have been one such target. He was not an opposition leader.

It could stand to reason that if a hit list did not exist, the Government of Liberia could simply have issued a release laying the rumor and the fears of the public to rest. As it stands, however, the reaction toward Freeman’s statements by the government’s security agencies could now spread even more panic and fear among the citizenry, lending credence to the rumor of the existence of a hit list.

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