Counselor-at-law Cooper W. Kruah, has categorically ruled out his client, Praise Tony Lawal, of having any part to play in the recent reported shooting at the vehicle of Samuel B. Cooper, manager of Westwood Construction Firm, a local construction company.
Cooper, a nephew of Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper, reported Saturday, May 30, that in the early hours of that day, unknown gun men shot at his car when he was returning to his Fish Market Community residence.
He reported the case to the Police and on Tuesday, June 2, Lawal, who is president and CEO of the Paelat Construction Company, was arrested by one police officer only identified as Johnny or R-5 in connection with the alleged shooting.
This was disclosed to the press by Cllr. Kruah, who read a statement on behalf of his client, Lawal, declaring that “Mr. Praise Lawal did not have any part to play in the alleged shooting incident against Mr. S. B. Cooper as was claimed.”
According to Cllr. Kruah, Officer Johnny allegedly told Lawal that he was acting “upon the orders of the Police Commissioner responsible for Criminal Investigations commonly referred to as 105.”
“It was when our client was approached by Mr. Caine that he requested him to make a telephone call to his lawyer. He was permitted to dial a telephone number of one of his lawyers, but the call did not go through,” he said.
He further stated that following this, “Lawal was physically grabbed by officer Johnny/R-5 and other unidentified police officers who handcuffed him even though he had offered to go with the police peacefully.”
He stated that Lawal’s phones were seized even though he wasn’t issued any search warrant and spent 24 hours in prison without being told why he was being detained in keeping with the laws of Liberia.
In support of his client and condemning the police action, he read Article 21 sub-paragraphs ‘b’ and ‘c’ of the Liberian Constitution.
Sub-para ‘B’: “No person shall be subject to search or seizure of his person or property, whether on a criminal charge or for any other purpose, unless upon warrant lawfully issued upon probable cause supported by a solemn oath or affirmation, specifically identifying the person or place to be searched and stating the object of the search; provided, however, that a search or seizure shall be permissible without a search warrant where the arresting authorities act during the commission of a crime or in hot pursuit of a person who has committed a crime.”
Sub-para ‘C’: “Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law. Such person shall be entitled to counsel at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of counsel. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such counsel shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.”
According to Kruah, those fundamental rights “were “ignored by the police when our client was arrested.” He also accused the police of reading “every personal communication in Mr. Lawal’s phone thereby invading his privacy and a further violation of his personal right under our criminal law, which protects an individual accused of committing a criminal act from providing evidence against himself.”
Cllr. Kruah disclosed that Officer Johnny/R-5 is said to be the first cousin of Mr. S. B. Cooper.
“Additionally, the fact that Mr. S. B. Cooper and Mr. Praise Lawal, our client, who is also president and CEO of the Paelat Construction Company are competitors in the same industry, raises eyebrows whether the actions against Mr. Praise Lawal is something deliberate and an attempt to bring him into public disrepute,” he stated.
Responding to questions, he stated among other things that his client was released by police, and was told that he cannot be linked to the alleged shooting.
Police in a statement said, “Mr. Lawal was arrested with the use of minimum force despite his violent and hostile conduct in resisting arrest by a squad of criminal investigators.”
“As part of its solemn responsibility to the state, the LNP has not and will never operate outside of the parameters of law, and categorically maintains that the search that was conducted on the premises of Mr. Lawal was in strict adherence of the rule law as the police sought and obtained from the Magisterial Court in Gardnerville, a writ of search and seizure, which was duly served by a Bailiff of the court on Mr. Lawal prior the search.”