One of the defense lawyers in the ongoing trial of 18 persons accused of mercenary activities in neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire has for the first time spoken against government’s spending huge amounts of money to fly in Ivorian security personnel to testify in the case, alleging they provided ‘hear say accounts.’
Cllr. T. Dempster Brown on Thursday, May 8, openly stood in the crowded Criminal Court ‘D’ wondering as to why the government would spend thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money to fly into the country two Ivorian security personnel—who provided testimonies based on “hear say.”
“Those guys are sleeping in the best hotels, eating the best meals in the country. That is a waste,” Cllr. Brown alleged publicly when he gave the defense team's closing argument in a motion for Judgment and Acquittal of the defendants.
When the two Ivorian officers, one a lieutenant and the other a deputy commissioner for security, took the witness stand, they denied arresting any of the defendants. They, however, admitted getting the information about the involvement of the defendants in cross border raid from Ivoirians residing along the border, and officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP).
The lieutenant, in his testimony, told the court that the “residents of Para informed me of the attack in their area, and we set up a team of military personnel to carry out an investigation to stop the attackers from advancing.” According to him at that time, six persons (all Ivoirians) had been arrested.
Para is the area in La Côte d’Ivoire where the seven United Nations peacekeepers were ambushed and killed, allegedly by the defendants.
The deputy commissioner for security also testified that, “It was the LNP that told me about the confession reportedly made by some of the defendants, when they were investigated at the headquarters of the LNP.”
Based on those testimonies, Cllr. Brown angrily said, “Why in the world will a government spend [money] on those kinds of witnesses, who produced hear say evidences. This is because the Ministry of Justice wants to get rich under the cover of transporting security personnel, and requesting for millions of dollars to cover their expenses.”
“They are using the case to get richer and richer,” the defense lawyer further alleged.
He did not give details on the amount government has so far spent on the case, but insinuated that the manner in which taxpayers’ money is being expended on a case that has no merit leaves much to be desired.
Another witness, a Liberian, Thomas Gardior, according to Cllr. Brown, collected L$10,000, US$150, several gallons of gasoline, and a motorbike from the government to testify against the defendants.
“Can you see how prosecutors are enjoying from the case? They are having fabulous lunch on a daily basis in the offices of the County Attorney of Montserrado County.” Cllr. Brown's assertion was greeted with laughter in the courtroom.
He said, he understands the frustration of family members, and the public, but noted that the government is largely to blame.
The 18 defendants were arraigned in April 2014, on the charge of mercenarism, for which they formally entered into not guilty pleas, but Cllr. Brown alleged prosecutors were keeping them at the Monrovia Central Prison to make money for themselves.
In 2013, then Judge Yussif Kaba of Criminal Court ‘D’ halted progress on the trial based on jury tampering allegations.