“We are not guilty, say over 25 defendants formally charged, indicted and facing trial at the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County. They have taken issue with the state to prove them guilty of multiple crimes.
The defendants pleaded not guilty when the contents of the indictment were read to them last week, during the trial processing conducted by the clerk of the court, Emmanuel Quahgar.
The multiple crimes include armed robbery, theft of property, obstruction of government function, criminal mischief, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, obstructing highway, criminal conspiracy and other public tresspasses.
Those indicted are Fred Saye, Jonathan Paye , Yei Dokie , Prince Lah, Prince Zeadah , Emmanuel Torbaye , Romeo Zuweh , Romeo Swah , Wilson Gono , Zuo Gbealah , Peter Zuah, Alano Kortoe and Yei Brown.
Others are William Gbandeah, Saye Jebdole , George S.K. Dolo, Melvin Zeantoe, Saye Tee, Zuweh, Patrick Gongar, Junior Musa, Oretha Gono, Saye Garteh and others to be identified. They were all accused, charged and indicted for having conspired to commit the various mentioned crimes.
The indictment was prepared by the Special Grand Jurors of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Nimba County under the signature of County Attorney, Hector Quoigoah.
According to the indictment, the defendants did conspire and commit the aforesaid crimes which violate chapter 17 Section 17.1, 17.3, 12.1 17.7 and Chapter 10 Section 4(1, 2, 3, 4, respectively of the New Penal Law of Liberia, Chapter 26 of the Liberian Code in the form and manner.
The indictment revealed that the Tokadeh Progressive Youth Development Association in Nimba wrote Nimba County Attorney Quoigoah on June 27, 2014, informing him that their group would carry out a march on July 3, 2014, but he dishonored it saying that the notice was too short and they would not allow the police to protect the march.
He directed the youth group to call off the plan because, according to him, the defendants, headed by one Othello Bontor and others to be identified, had intended to cause public disturbance, damage and carry away properties of ArcelorMittal and AFCONS and physically obstruct the enforcement of the law and gather at Banlaw (TNF) junction near Gbarpa, fell trees and create roads blocks, thereby restricting free movement of traffic, violently exhibiting cutlasses, sticks and other lethal instruments and carry stones.
Thereafter, security officers, including the Liberia National Police, engaged defendant Othello Bontor and colleagues in a peaceful manner and tried to persuade them to unblock the road, but they reigned insults and threw stones at the security personnel.
The indictment indicated that at 6:25 a.m. on July 3, 2014, the defendants, headed by Saye Toe Zuweh and Peter Zuweh, the president of the organization, despite the County Attorney’s mandate that they should call off the plan, damaged and carried away properties of ArcelorMittal and Afcons, caused public disturbances and physically obstructed the enforcement of laws, fell trees with power saws, created road blocks, with cutlasses, sticks, threw stones, while mask dancers displayed traditional war dances. The defendants further chanted threatening slogans, the indictment disclosed.
At about 12:00 noon, on July 12, 2014, County Attorney Quoigoah, amid the growing number of demonstrators and the violent nature of their actions, tried to calm the situation at Tokadeh Junction, but he was booed at by the defendants and other demonstrators yet to be identified, which resulted to releasing teargas on the demonstrators by the police.
According to the indictment, the demonstrators deranged, looted and set ablaze properties of Afcons, SEGAL and ArcelorMittal valued at over US$5,000,000 and police subsequently arrested and charged the defendants. They also trenched and entrapped employees of the said entities at Tokadeh mines for over 24 hours.
Following this, the Special Grand Jury of the 8th Judiciary Circuit Court in Nimba County, transferred the case to Grand Bassa County based upon a motion for change of venue to Grand Bassa, which was granted by then presiding Judge, J. Boima Kortu. Meanwhile, the commencement of the trial proceedings on March 2, 2015, at the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County, was presided over by Judge Yussif Kaba, while the state is being represented by the Ministry of Justice.