Mercenary Case Resumes under Tight Security

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    Eighteen Liberians accused of taking part in a cross-border raid in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, appeared briefly under tight security in Criminal Court ‘D’ on Tuesday March 11.

    They are being tried under Liberia’s 1976 law against “mercenarism,” which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

    At Tuesday’s hearing, the handcuffed men in the docket pleaded not guilty for the second times to the charge when it was read to them in open court by the clerk of court.

    The start of the trial comes a month after the men stormed the courtroom destroying property and behaving in a violent manner to express their dissatisfaction over the slow pace of the case.

    The case was firstly heard and subsequently suspended by Judge Yussif Kaba on claims of juror bribery.

    The trial was then postponed until Thursday, March 13, by Judge Emery Paye.

    It is alleged that they joined Ivorian fighters, who attacked villages in Côte d’Ivoire; killing civilians, destroying homes and displacing thousands between 2010 and 2011.

    They were also accused of being responsible for the death of seven United Nations peacekeepers in the Southeastern part of that country. 

    The State prosecutors have said pieces of evidence in their possession include arms and ammunition along with audio and video footage of meetings attended by the accused.

    The crisis in Côte d’Ivoire erupted after the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave office even though he lost the 2010 presidential and general elections to current leader Alassane Ouattara.

    Tens-of-thousands Ivorian refugees fled into Liberia, as did an unknown number of combatants.   

    The Liberian authorities have described them as “the lowest of human characteristics in volunteering to kill, destroy and commit criminal acts in exchange for adequate payment”.

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