As angry protesters, police clash
The St. Joseph Catholic Hospital was on Thursday, October 3, 2019, a scene of high and tense drama attended by intermittent Police surges against hundreds of angry protesters who had converged at the Hospital grounds in order to forestall Police attempts to take Ms. Jestina Kumba Taylor to the Police headquarters apparently to prevent her from reaching the United States Embassy in Mamba Point, where she was scheduled to meet a visa appointment.
Ms. Jestina Kumba Taylor had been interned at the Catholic Hospital for well over a month, following an ordeal of torture and gang rape she suffered at the hands of unknown assailants. Ms. Taylor, according to her own accounts, was abducted by some unidentified individuals who took her to an undisclosed location on the Monrovia-Robertsfield highway, where she was repeatedly gang-raped, tortured and drugged. She was set to be killed but apparently, one of her assailants rescued her and took her from the location where she was being held and taken to the Monrovia-Roberts highway where, according to reports, her rescuer hailed down a taxi and directed the driver to take her to the nearest Police station , all of this while she was in a semi-conscious state.
Jestina’s troubles began with allegations she made in a live video on social media (Facebook) that she was among those this government sent to Mali to purchase a stash of arms which, she claimed, were concealed at the abandoned farm of former President Charles Taylor. She also alleged that Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee had killed a young woman by whom Chuckie Taylor allegedly fathered a deformed child. But Mayor Koijee, in a press conference held almost immediately afterwards, denied any involvement in the alleged killing.
But shortly thereafter, Jestina was abducted by unknown assailants, trussed up and taken to an unknown location where she was held for a few days during which time she was forcibly administered a concoction of mind-altering drugs in order to facilitate the gang-rape which she suffered at the hands of her assailants.
She has since identified one of her attackers as Mulbah Kesselly, a convicted armed robber who was serving time at the Monrovia Central Prison until he was released surreptitiously, allegedly by a top official of the Ministry of Justice.
Thursday’s drama had its highs and lows as well, marked by intermittent clashes with a contingent of riot Police who had been sent to the area ostensibly to prevent protesters from accompanying Jestina to the US Embassy in Mamba Point to meet her visa appointment. Protesters had meanwhile set up roadblocks on the main thoroughfare linking Sinkor to Congo Town and beyond.
The Police responded by firing teargas and deploying water cannon in an attempt to deter protesters from taking to the streets and restricting the flow of traffic.
Daily Observer reporters Simeon Wiakanty and Hannah Geterminah who were in the thick of the action, reported seeing a Police officer throwing stones at the protesters who, in apparent response to the teargas and spurts of water cannon, retaliated with a hail of stones directed at the Police truck. Each time the Police would charge, the protesters would flee but regroup again time after time.
A young woman (name withheld) in her late twenties, scoffing at the Police, excitedly told our reporters: “the Police is wasting their time because the water from the truck is not even hot, it is warm”, she exclaimed, as she reached down and dipped her fingers into the little stream of water gushing down the roadway leading to the Catholic Hospital. Hours later, following a tense standoff between Police and protesters, Jestina was turned over to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR).
Informed sources however told the Daily Observer that Jestina was first taken to the offices of the INCHR and was subsequently taken to the UN headquarters at Pan African Plaza, 1st Street, Monrovia. She was seen waving jubilantly to the crowd as she was being driven out of the hospital compound.
Earlier, newly elected Montserrado County Senator, Darius Dillon was seen leaving the Catholic Hospital Compound and was quoted as saying he was on his way to meet with the Vice President and the Chief Justice for reasons he did not explain.
Later, he would post on his Facebook page the following: “We will not rest content until we ensure her wellbeing and personal safety. If there is an arrest warrant on Justina Taylor for any legal and justified reason, serve it on her. She is Not above the law; until then she should be a free woman. Let her go!”
However, Jestina’s lawyer, Cllr. Aloysius Toe, who was expected to arrive at the Catholic Hospital yesterday morning in order to sign Jestina into his custody, failed to show up after hours of waiting. However, sources told the Daily Observer that Senators Daniel Naaten and Darius Dillon had proxied for Cllr. Toe whose notable absence was attributed to a displayed lack of courage on his part.
Meanwhile, Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon, in his now familiar and usual outbursts on a local radio station and on social media, has accused those who he described as “losers in the last elections” for being responsible for the affray yesterday, which witnessed some arrests but no casualties or fatalities, according to our reporters.
At this point it remains unclear just why the Police sought to arrest Jestina especially in view of evidence that she is the true victim of the crime perpetrated by unknown assailants, except for Mr. Mulbah Kesselly who, according to reliable sources, Jestina has positively identified as one of her assailants.
It also remains unclear whether the Government of Liberia or officials of this government intend to file charges against Jestina Taylor for whatever reasons. Legal sources told the Observer that, even if Jestina did violate the law, which is yet to be established, the nature of the offense would determine whether or not she would qualify for bail. In this case, legal sources added, the most likely charge which officials of this government could file against Jestina would be criminal libel which, in any case, according to the lawyer, constitutes a bailable offense.
Thus, according to the lawyer, the government of Liberia was in error for holding Jestina against her will and attempting to restrain her movement when she had not been criminally or formally charged.