There is an adage (proverb) that is very old, but still rings resounding truth: “Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” The author of the proverb used the word condemned carefully, meaning that the repeat of history comes always with very serious, sometimes deadly consequences.
History repeated itself on Tuesday when Criminal Court ‘E’ released from further detention, for a mere US$25,000 bond, a Lebanese businessman, Anthony Kassabli, who had been convicted of the multiple crimes of gang rape, a capital crime, illicit human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
An interesting and highly suspicious twist in this conviction was that the judge, Her Honor Evelina Quaqua, who had delivered the verdict on July 31, 2013, was immediately removed from her post!
Worse yet, the judge who replaced Evelina, that courageous and forthright jurist, freed the convict claiming Ebola threat after his lawyers paid his bond fee of US$25,000.
The same day the convict, Anthony Kassabli, was freed he left the country!
We wonder whether Judge Ceaneh Clinton Johnson, who freed the convict on account of Ebola, has ever thought about all the other thousands of prisoners in jails around the country, many of whom have been there for years still awaiting trial. Is there no Ebola fear among them? Criminal Court ‘E’ is situated in the Temple of Justice. Where is the justice in this case?
The prosecution pleaded with Judge Johnson to permit them, in exercise of their statutory mandate to care for and protect prisoners in their custody, to take the convict, Anthony Kassabli, to the hospital, since he said he was sick. But, reported our Judicial Correpondent Abednego Davis, Judge Ceaneh Clinton Johnson ignored the prosecution’s request and released convict Kassabli on bail to his lawyers. The convict has already left the country.
The identical thing happened in 1978, when a Lebanese businessman, on suspicion that a Liberian teenager had eaten a candy from the businessman’s supermarket shelf on Center Street, strangled the teenager to death. The Lebanese was charged with murder but the Liberian government chose to drag on with the case—why? Because the slain teenager, Edward Gberrie, was an unknown, a nobody, one of the country’s faceless masses. So who cared?
It was, however, the University Spokesman, the news organ the University of Liberia students, that took a serious interest in the case and followed it daily and doggedly in the courts, bringing it to widespread public attention.
The Liberian public, including the enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), who seized power on April 12, 1980, never forgot the Gberrie incident. Some of the deadly consequences of that verdict became quite evident in the aftermath of the 1980 coup.
Would a Liberian convicted of any crime in Lebanon be so favored by any Lebanese judge? The answer is NO, because Liberians in Lebanon are among the “faceless” masses whom nobody knows.
Far to the contrary, the Lebanese in Liberia are among the best known and most influential segments of the society, who often boast to Liberians, “Take me anywhere. It is you who will leave there; not me.”
What gives them the authority to make such an arrogant and outrageous statement? Money. These people have long boasted that they have the Liberian government and its officials—in all three branches of government—in their pockets. In the 1980s Lebanese boasted that they held the key to President Samuel Doe’s bedroom.
This newspaper has repeatedly warned of the overweening influence of Lebanese and other foreign businesspeople in country’s affairs. Today, there are people either in or very close to government—or both—who have avowed their allegiance to and support of, Lebanese and other foreign businesspeople, even to the detriment of their own fellow Liberians.
We submit, and again we warn, that this is not the way to handle power. Power belongs to and emanates from the people.
Those who come to power are constantly reminded, yet still often forget, that they ignore the people at their own peril.