Mercenary Verdict Challenged

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    Lawyers representing 13 Liberians convicted of mercenarism have filed a motion for new trial, alleging that prosecutors prematurely presented the case to a grand jury, and that the testimony of a co-defendant was unreliable.

    The motion on behalf of the men was filed on June 12 by their lead defense Attorney Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe.

    They 13 were pronounced guilty by the jury on June 10 for the commission of the crime of mercenarism in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire.

    Their request for a new trial states that the jury ignored the fact that the material evidence given in the case was based on hearsay, particularly the evidence presented by Thomas Gladior, whom they alleged was the source of the information that led to the arrest and indictment of the defendants.

    They also claimed that the jury ignored a major discrepancy in Gladior’s testimony. Gladior testified that defendant Emmanuel Pewee was arrested in August 2012, when in fact he was already in jail on the charge of mercenarism at that time, having been arrested in 2011 and confined up to the rendering of the verdict.

    The defense team further argued that the evidence produced in the case did not prove the indictment as to the existence of a training camp in Liberia.

    In the indictment, government alleged that the men used the Thai Forest in Grand Gedeh County, where they recruited and trained Liberians to fight in La Côte d’Ivoire.

    They also alleged in the request that testimonies given by two witnesses from Côte d’Ivoire regarding the 13 men’s involvement in their country’s civil conflict was based on hearsay, meaning they were told by someone else.

    The defense's request contended that the heavy presence of armed police from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in and out of Court on the day of the verdict created an intimidating atmosphere for the jurors who rendered the guilty verdict.

    The team also alleged that the armed officers engaged the armless crowd that wanted to witness the trial, which, they claimed, is clearly against the ERU's rules of engagement.

    The motion argues that the jurors’ verdict did not take into consideration the fact that none of the police investigators visited the alleged crime scenes either in Liberia or La Côte d’Ivoire.

    In their motion, the lawyers alleged that the jury ignored the point of law that uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice is insufficient to convict one accused of a crime.

    They further argued that prosecution witnesses Bayee Gaye, Pascal Kollie, and Prince Barclay, who claimed to be accomplices of the defendants tried, gave conflicting testimonies.

    The defense request said that during Gaye's testimony, he alleged that the convicted men killed an officer of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN).

    BIN authorities however, did not submit the name of any officer that was allegedly killed or reported missing.

    The defense team claims the jury ignored these issues and convicted the 13 men for the commission of the crime.

    The 13 men were charged with mercenary in 2011; after government alleged that they staged cross border raid into neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire, where several civilians including seven peacekeepers were killed.

    Final judgment in the case has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 17, by Judge Emery Paye.

    It is not clear whether the submission of the motion will compel Judge Paye to suspend his judgment or he would go ahead with the jury’s recommendation to sentence the men to prison.

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