Judge Asked to Step-Down in Case Regarding Girls From Lebanon

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The defense team representing Abbas Debes, a Lebanese national being tried in Bomi County for a number of crimes including gang rape and human trafficking, has demanded that Judge William Sando, who presides over the matter, must be made to step down from further hearing of the case.
Defendant Debes is facing multiple crimes, ranging from illicit trafficking of human beings and migrants, gang rape and criminal conspiracy and if found guilty he would serve over 10 years imprisonment.
Defense also claimed that the manner and form in which Judge Sando was conducting the entire case clearly demonstrated that he was not interested in ensuring that their client would get a fair and transparent trial.
In their request for Judge Sando to step down from handling the case, the defense pointed out that, at the onset of the trial, the judge refused to place serious attention to a complaint they filed to him, highlighting their concerns regarding the huge presence of armed officers of the Liberia National Police in the crowded courtroom.
The security presence in the courtroom, the defense team alleged, intimidated their lawyers, the jury and the judge himself, which they contended Judge Sando failed to address.
Prosecution countered that the defense team’s allegation suggested that they (defense) had tampered with the jury so as to bring a verdict in their favor.
It was due to the claims and counter-claims that Judge Sando decided to disband the already selected 12 of the 15 jurors and subsequently ordered the selection of a different set of jurors.
The judge’s decision to disband the jury came from prosecution’s argument that, the defense statement that the jury was intimidated by the presence of state security, showed that the defense team may have acquired said information from some of the jurors.
The prosecution did however admit to the presence of the armed state security, claiming that they were there to provide protection to its witnesses – the young women – who had been under their protection, since they were repatriated from Lebanon.
Prosecution is yet to respond to the request asking Judge Sando to step down from hearing the case.
Hearing of that request has been scheduled for Thursday, September 24.

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