Drama unfolded on Friday, March 21, at the Temple of Justice, when a group of men stormed the Monrovia City Court and walked away with journalist Henry Costa, who had been ordered incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison by the court.
Costa was, however, re-arrested by the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National (LNP) and subsequently turned over the court.
He was charged with Terroristic Threats, Menacing and Criminal Cohesion, following a complaint from Fumba Sirleaf, one of the sons of the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Fumba Sirleaf is also head of the National Security Agency (NSA).
In his complaint, the NSA boss alleged that Costa, on February 24, threatened to kill him.
Sirleaf alleged that Costa made the threat on his ‘Costa Show’ on Radio HOTT FM, where he allegedly challenged to engage Sirleaf in a fist fight. Sirleaf said the threat subjected him to fear and public ridicule.
At the court on Friday, Costa was arrested based on a Writ of Arrest from Magistrate Nelson B. Chineh, following Sirleaf’s complaint.
When Costa and his legal team appeared at the court, they pleaded with magistrate Chineh to adjourn the matter because the time was late to conduct criminal trial.
However, the prosecution argued that the time had nothing to do with the trial, and prayed the court to deny the request.
Surprisingly, Costa’s request was rejected by Magistrate Chineh.
In his ruling, Magistrate Chineh declared, “Having listened to the defense’s application and corresponding thereto, stature controlling criminal proceeding provides that upon the Writ of arrest and where the defendant brought to court, “the court should proceed to acquaint the defendant all of his rights, including rights to a counsel, and to a bail; and right of preliminary investigation if the crime is above the jurisdiction of the court.”
He further ruled, “The defendant is hereby advised to take advantage of bail, since it is a bailable offense – [failing which] the Sheriff is ordered to have him incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Pension, unless said bond is filed.”
Following the ruling, legal counsel for Mr. Costa failed to secure the US$3,000 bond to prevent him from going to jail.
It was after the Sheriff handcuffed and was taking him to jail, that a crowd gathered at the court to prevent his incarceration.
They overpowered the sheriff and escorted Costa, still in handcuffs, to the Foreign Ministry Office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Later they paraded him through the principle streets of Monrovia beginning at the University of Liberia main Campus on Capitol Hill to Broad Street, where he was re-arrested by the PSU officers.
He was brought back to the court and subsequently taken to the Monrovia Central Prison.
Costa is a former radio talk show host whose tough stance on issues of national concern won him many accolades as well as enemies in high places. Mr. Costa, whose Henry Costa Show began airing nearly two years ago, said he was leaving Hott FM and “moving on” because he was tired of being censored by his station manager, whom he accused of being a paid agent for higher-ups in the Sirleaf-led government.
In two years, Henry won himself many admirers, especially among Liberians calling for change and for the Liberian economy to be placed into the hands of ordinary Liberians.