Liberia’s Peace and Reconciliation process is being threatened by the sentencing of the thirteen mercenaries to life imprisonment, Representative Munah Pelham-Youngblood has warned.
Criminal Court ‘D’ at the Temple of Justice Tuesday convicted thirteen persons, predominantly hailing from Grand Gedeh County, of “mercenary arts across the Liberian border in Ivory Coast.”
Judge Emery Paye’s pronouncement of the “Life Sentence” was based on motion filed by defense lawyers to ignore the jury’s previous guilty verdict. The defense argued that it was contrary to the weight of the evidence stated in the prosecution indictment. But the judge denied the defense’s motion.
In a Daily Observer interview yesterday, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) lawmaker described the verdict as a “sad day for Liberia and its quest to reconcile its people after many years of conflict.”
“It pains me to see people from one ethnic group sentenced to life time imprisonment when we have just ended fourteen years of senseless war that divided us as people,” Madam Youngblood indicated.
"Understanding that 12 of those 13 persons are from Grand Gedeh and one person from Nimba means that we are discussing Grand Gedeh and Nimba again. Their sons are about to languish behind bars at the Monrovia Central Prison. This is sad, as it takes us back to the old days that led us to where we are today as Liberians.
“At this point, where Amb. George Weah has been given the opportunity to serve as Peace Ambassador to reconcile the people, I want to use this time as a product of CDC, to speak to the consciousness of Amb. Weah to think about the position he occupies at the moment because it appears that the State is not prepared to reconcile her people. For the fact that they were eighteen and five were set free on lack of evidence, I think the court, in her wisdom, made a mistake to acquit the five and convict the others.
"For the fact they were all charged for the same crime, why was one group released and the other sentenced? This tells you that something happened along the way.
"If there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the five, there should be no evidence to convict the others because they were all picked up in the same region.”
She wondered why the Liberian government should engage in prosecuting her own people on allegation of crime outside of her territory when similar situation happened in Liberia and other governments did not take action.
“As Liberians,” Rep. Youngblood insisted, “we must not be the first to do things to our people.
“You cannot make your citizens vulnerable to outside forces to the point that they would be humiliated. I strongly sense serious foul play in this matter because I know the legal system. I sense fear and trouble in this direction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not backing impunity, but our people must live freely and our state must do the right thing. “Reconciliation begins with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and ends with her. This is the only way Liberians can be reconciled, if Madam Sirleaf can reconcile with herself and give the opportunity to those that hurt her in the past to say sorry in a free environment.”