MOJ Ordered to Return Defendant’s Passport

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After several days’ deliberations, Judge Yussif Kaba of the Civil Law Court, Temple of Justice, on Wednesday described the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) action not to return Prasie Lawal’s passport to him as a “grave violation of the constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens.”
“The court, this time would not consider itself to be a party to said unjust action,” the Civil Law Court Judge declared in his ruling on the writ of Habeas Corpus filed against the MOJ by Lawal’s counsel Arthur Johnson.
Judge Kaba further declared that “the act of the MOJ and agencies operating thereof, by depriving this man of his freedom of movement, without due process of law, constitutes a grave violation of the constitutional rights guaranteed all citizens. Therefore, this court considers same as illegal and unwarranted.”
Lawal, General Manager of Paelet Construction Company, had his passport seized immediately after he was released on June 28, in connection with the charge of assassination attempt on the life of Samuel Cooper, General Manager of Westwood Construction Company.
Lawal was arrested June 25 and subsequently detained for two days at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and was later released following but his passport was held by the LNP.
Judge Kaba ordered the MOJ to turn over said passport to the Sheriff of the court, for onward transmission to Mr. Lawal within 24 hours.
According to Judge Kaba, Liberia has undergone tremendous turmoil that grew out of people being deprived of their rights, liberty and arbitrary arrests and must therefore learn to live within the confines of the law.
He said the deprivation of Lawal’s right to travel constitutes a restrain of his liberty, which no institution of government has the right to do.
Government lawyers argued that they were unable to produce the passport because the document was with the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, who has been out of the country.
Based on that excuse, Judge Kaba said, “What is of relevance here is whether or not the MOJ has adopted the proper procedures in law to ensure that those who commit crimes in the country are brought before the law and are accorded the due process rights as provided for by the Constitution.”
Prior to his ruling, Lawal’s lead defense counsel, Arthur Johnson complained to the court that on June 25, his client, who is a citizen of Liberia, was arrested by the LNP and detained for two days.
He alleged that his client was later turned over to him but unfortunately, there has been no action by the police to have his traveling documents returned to him, in spite of the many communications they have written to the police.

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