President Sirleaf to Pardon Prisoners in Sinoe?

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The main gate of the Greenville Central Prison which holds about 24 detainees.jpg

There are 24 detainees in the Greenville Central Prison comprising 22 male and 2 female. It is alleged that 15 of them are accused of armed robbery and economic sabotage. Out of the 24 detainees, eight have been arraigned in court.

More than half of the detainees are the May 26 Butaw rioters, who recently and sadly were reduced to 14 owing to the untimely and mysterious death of Fred Friday Thompson on Sunday, June 12, 2015. He was said to be the ring leader of the rioters.

The 168th independence celebration in Greenville, Sinoe County will also mark exactly two months since the detention of the Butaw rioters and there are “confirmed rumors” that because armed robbery is a non-bailable offence, there will be no “parole – or early release” as guaranteed by Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay.

At the Butaw Administrative Building in Butaw District, about 30 minutes from Greenville, Senator Teahjay assured Sinoeans, especially the people of Butaw, that the release of 13 out of 14 detainees would happen latest yesterday, but there are legal indications that the “parole’s general release” has not been finalized.

Although a defendant may be sentenced to imprisonment for a certain number of years, he may only serve part of it. Conditional release before the planned sentence ends is possible. It’s called parole.

Parole is a privilege, not a right. No one is entitled to early release from prison. Parole won’t make a sentence longer. Even if several requests are denied, someone won’t stay in prison longer than the initial sentence.

Senator Teahjay stated that ringleader Terry Panyonnon would not be released owing to government’s criminal record on Panyonnoh and furthermore owing to his “disrespectful attitude towards (Teahjay) when he was serving as Superintendant.

The Senator’s blatant decision to not guarantee Panyonnoh’s parole release has created bad feelings among the youth, with many of them calling him the “Pioneer of Insults” during his revolutionary and advocacy days in the 1980s and 1990s.

Meanwhile the County Attorney, Cllr. John A.A. Gabriel, told the Daily Observer yesterday that the eligibility for granting the Butaw rioters parole is still being negotiated and would not divulge further about the disagreement.

Our reporter has gathered that the eligibility for parole varies owing to the crimes by the court either setting how much time would be served first.

Most likely parole can’t be granted if there may be a public threat and if it would promote disrespect for the law.

Nonetheless, the President, Head of State and Head of the Government with the power vested in her has the authority to grant executive clemency.

According to Article 59 of the Liberian Constitution, ‘The President of Liberia may remit any public forfeitures and penalties, suspend any fines and sentences, grant reprieves and pardons and restore civil rights after conviction for all public offences, except impeachment.’

For instance in 2008, the President granted clemency to fourteen persons from River Gee County convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for administering sassywood resulting in a number of deaths.

President Sirleaf has also granted unconditional clemency to two convicts in Grand Gedeh County who ordered and instructed the beating of a female citizen of their community accused of engaging in witchcraft resulting in the death of the accused person. ‘Sassywood’ is a traditional form of trial by ordeal.

According to the executive clemency procedure, the President writes the Justice Minister, who is the Attorney General of the Country about the “pardon” and mandates him/her that pardoned convicts are to make themselves available to their county authorities for other forms of community service that discourage their county counterparts from indulging in unlawful acts. She has also urged them to change their ways or attitudes and become honorable and law abiding.

With the uncertainty about the release of the Butaw rioters and other detainees, most Sinoeans are praying that the President would exercise executive clemency.

Mr. Saydee Monboe, Hasting Panyonnoh, Dennis T.W. Jabbah, Jerome Nah, Adolphus Thompson and Oretha Young are a few of the many people of Sinoe County who are praying that the detainees in the county are released unconditionally.

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