Thirteen persons convicted of mercenarism were on Tuesday, June 17 sentenced to life imprisonment, after their plea for new trial was denied by Criminal Court ‘D’ at the Temple of Justice.
The defense lawyers filed a motion seeking the approval of Judge Emery Paye to ignore the jury’s guilty verdict, contending it was contrary to the weight of the evidence stated in prosecution indictment.
However, Judge Paye denied that request on Tuesday, and confirmed the jurors’ unanimous guilty verdict brought down against the defendants on June 10.
They were found guilty of launching a cross border attack in neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire, where seven United Nations peacekeepers and several civilians were allegedly killed in 2010, following that country’s post-election violence.
Denying the request, Judge Paye declared that the “unanimous guilty verdict of the jury is hereby confirmed and affirmed by the court, and the defendants are hereby sentenced to a common cell, at the Monrovia Central Prison for the rest of their lives.”
Tuesday’s sentenced followed four months of trial at Criminal Court ‘D.’ at the Temple of Justice.
The Criminal Court Judge also clarified that four of prosecution’s key witnesses, Pascal Kollie, Moses Barway, Baryee Gaye, and Thomas Gladier in their testimonies linked all of the defendants to the commission of the crime of mercenarism.
Gaye, Kollie, and Barway were among the 13 men charged with mercenarism, but the charges against them were dropped by prosecution to allow them to testify on their behalf.
Judge Paye said witness Kollie testified that they crossed the Cavalla River into neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire with the aid of one of the defendants—Nyeeze Barway.
Kollie, the Criminal Court Judge said, testified that he was present when Nyewee blasted the vehicle that was carrying the UN peacekeepers and killed all seven of them.
“The four witnesses during the trial testified and identified to some of the weapons that were used by the defendants to stage their mission in that country.
They even named some of their financiers as Solo, Didier, Philip Parley, Junior Tanneh, and Emmanuel as the custodian of the weapons. All of whom were associates of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbargbo.
Minutes following their sentenced on Tuesday, one of the men’s lawyers was heard saying, "As far as we were concerned, we are not surprised about the sentence because it was politically motivated,” he added "We will be appealing both conviction and sentence after careful consideration.”
“They would maintain their innocence, and that they are interested in appealing their conviction," the lawyer publicly stated.
The government in 2011-2012 indicted 18 defendants of mercenarism alleging that they launched crossed border raid in neighboring La Côte d’Ivoire.
They further alleged that the defendants were trained and recruited in the Thai forest in Grand Gedeh County, where they attacked from into La Côte d’Ivoire.
That allegation was denied by the defendants, shifting the burden of proof on the state.
Interestingly, at the trial the Court dropped the charges against five of the 18, after their lawyers filed a motion of acquittal, contending that none of the prosecution’s witnesses linked them to the commission of the crime.
The case was first heard in 2013, but was suspended by then Judge Yussif Kaba on ground of jury’s tempering allegation brought by the State.