13 convicted in Liberian ‘mercenary’ trial

Court officers march the defendants to court

Court officers march the defendants to court

After 96 days of legal proceedings, jurors in a Liberian criminal court Thursday slapped the rest of 13 defendants with a unanimous guilty verdict for subversive activities in Ivory Coast in 2011 and 2012.

The jurors, through the foreman, informed the court that they were convinced by the number of evidence presented in court by state lawyers.

They claimed that state evidence was overwhelming to convict the 13 men of the crime of mercenarism. The jurors affirmed their guilty verdict when each one of them were said yes to the verdict in open court.

Defense lawyers took exception to the jurors’ verdict and are awaiting for the final judgment that will be announced  on June 17 at Criminal Court ‘D’ at the Temple of Justice.

Prior to the jurors’ guilty verdict both lawyers were given two hours to present their side of the case by convincing the panel jury as to whether the 13 defendants should be found guilty or not guilty.

Monsterrado County Attorney Cllr. Darku Mulbah informed the court and jurors that they have established a primafacie case since February 2014 when all 18 defendants at the time pleaded not guilty.

He said their evidence presented in court was overwhelming, saying “that it was backed with their witnesses testimonies, along with several documents.”

He added all their witnesses’ testimonies collaborated in proving the case against the defendant.

The county attorney urged the penal jury to bring down an unanimous  verdict guilty against the remaining 13 defendants because they presented the best evidence for their conviction. Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, legal consultant to the ministry of Justice,  concluded for state in similar fashion and backed his argument with series of legal citations saying “people should be responsible for action.”

He said the defendants did not prove anything to the contrary that should warrant an acquittal as provided by law.

Defense lawyers opened their arguments by looking at the inconsistency of state lawyers’ evidence and witnesses’ testimonies.

Atty. Arthur Tamba Johnson, who critically looked at the state evidence, especially the police sheet, said it locked the strength to convict the defendants.

He informed the jurors that all the so-called police statements that were taken from defendants did not come from the defendants. He said the defendants were consistent throughout the trial and that at no time they made any statements at the police station because they could not read and write.

He said under the country’s laws such statements cannot be allowed in court because it was obtained illegally from the defendants.

Atty. Johnson cited several legal citations to back his statement, adding that the state indicted the wrong people for subversion in Ivory Coast.

He argued that state lawyers did not carry out a proper investigation of the defendants before indicting them and wanted the panel jury to do their dirty work for them.

Human Rights lawyer Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe closed the defense’ argument saying “State lawyers’ witnesses’ testimonies were unbalance during the trial.”

He said the released of five of the defendants’ clearly showed that the state had no case to prove but wanted the jurors to accomplish their mission.

He urged the trial jurors to release the defendants because the state did not prove a primafacie case as provided by the law.

The defendants were indicted in 2011 and 2012 on multiple offenses ranging from mercenarism, to murder, rape, arson and theft of property.

The six-page indictment said that the defendant were participants in post-elections violence in neighboring Ivory Coast that led to the arrest of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

Story & Photo Peter N. Toby