Authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) yesterday confirmed the continued detention of Archie Sarnor, a rights activist, and half a dozen others, who were arrested during the Monday, Feb. 29 riot on Capitol Hill, Monrovia on multiple charges ranging from “incitement leading to disturbing public peace.”
While Vandalark Patricks, for whose cause the protest was held, was released on bail from further detention on Tuesday, March 1, some of his associates including Sarnor have remained in police custody.
Police spokesman Sam Collins told the Daily Observer late yesterday via mobile phone that police will “properly process, charge and forward to court for prosecution Sarnor and all those arrested in connection to the riot,” adding that “this country is a country of laws, not men.”
Today makes two nights since police arrested and detained Sarnor and colleagues on Monday.
Meanwhile, following a week of detention at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP), Vandalark Patricks was yesterday released after his legal team secured a US$3,000 criminal appearance bond to allow him wait his sedition and criminal libel charges levied against him by government.
Though unconfirmed, the Daily Observer learned yesterday that businessman and opposition political figure, Benoni Urey, made the cash available to secure the bond for Patricks’ temporary release as he prepares for trial.
Though Mr. Urey could not be reached to confirm his involvement, Cllr. Gongloe did say that the politician had contacted him concerning Patricks’ case. However, Gongloe told the Daily Observer via phone yesterday that Woods Nyanton of Voice FM brought the US$3,000 cash to him and that he (Gongloe) did not know whether the money originated from Mr. Urey.
At the central prison yesterday Patricks’ supporters were jubilating when his lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe escorted him outside his cell.
Immediately after release, Cllr. Gongloe drove Mr. Patricks to the Gongloe and Associates Law Firm on Ashmun Street, where a brief welcome ceremony was held for the defendant.
Cllr. Gongloe used that occasion to inform the gathering that his client was wrongfully detained.
“In the first place, he should not have been jailed for speeches he made under our law. Government action is an idea of repression,” Cllr. Gongloe added.
“The President signed the Table Mountain Declaration regarding freedom of speech. Why will she now arrest people because of that?” Cllr. Gongloe wondered.
After Cllr. Gongloe’s remarks, Mr. Patricks expressed gratitude to his supporters, but advised them to remain violence-free.
While in my cell, Patricks claimed that the LNP physically and psychologically tortured him.
“These are the scars on my body, but we need to be non-violent in our approach for peace sake,” Patricks said as his supporters greeted his statement with rounds of applause.
“We are people of peace and yielding to see a free society, because yesterday those generation went into the bushes and brought untold suffering on our people,” he said, adding, “we should not allow ourselves to repeat those same mistakes; we should use the pen, our intellect and the microphones to champion the cause of justice, this is the message of freedom.”
Patricks was arrested after he read a communiqué on behalf of a consortium of political parties and civil society organizations on February 21 calling for a mass citizen action on March 11.
He also accused the government of hiring assassins to murder the former managing director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC), Harry A. Greaves Jr., and eliminate other political opponents of the government.
Mr. Greaves’ body was discovered January 31 on a beach near Monrovia. He went missing two days later.
Mulbah Morlu, vice chairman for operations and mobilization for opposition Congress for Democratic Change party (CDC), told reporters at a press conference on Monday, following the riot, that Patricks must be released “immediately or else the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will have no peace.”
“We believe Mr. Patricks’ arrest is a misplaced aggression of judicial authority, because he was a representative of the different political groupings and civil society actors that came together to issue that statement. So, we hold that his arrest is arbitrary; his arrest is unwarranted. And so, we will stage a very pro-protest on the premises of the Temple of Justice to insist that government has no business holding Mr. Patricks at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP),” Morlu said.
He said the consortium of political parties and civil society groups issued their statement, because they had been concerned about the number of recent “politically motivated” mysterious deaths, which reminded the people of the dark days of the past.
“You remember there was a murder on the Congo Town back road of standard bearer of the Free Democratic Party, Ciapha Gbolee. No arrest was made. There was the murder of human rights activist and anti-corruption whistleblower, Michael Allison. No arrest was made. And now the latest is the murder of Harry Greaves. Mr. Patricks was simply reading a document that was making a documentary that was authorized by different political institutions,” Ralph Brown, a representative of Media United to Enhance Democracy, interjected.
What started as a peaceful sit-in protest advocating the release of jailed youth political activist Vandalark Patricks escalated into a violent confrontation between protesters and police at the Temple of Justice, involving hurling of stones and teargas, from respective sides.
Monday’s altercation quickly worsened after some individuals in the vicinity of the University of Liberia violently engaged the Police by pelting them with more stones. Several vehicles were damaged from flying rocks, according to eyewitnesses on the scene.
The demonstration was intended to force government to release detained rights Patricks, who was arrested by the government last Wednesday and charged with sedition and criminal libel.
The demonstration turned violent when police denied the protesters from forcing their way onto the grounds of the Temple of Justice, where they had earlier prevented the convoy of Chief Justice Francis Saye Korpkor from accessing the premises.