1 May 2002

Liberia: Detained Lawyer Released in Monrovia

Washington, DC — Detained Liberian lawyer Tiawan Gongloe, who was last week beaten in detention and had to be hospitalised, has been released into the custody of one of Liberia's prominent advocates for human rights, Archbishop Michael Francis.

"I am happy I am alive. I was close to death during that one night in police detention," human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe told allAfrica.com after his release.

The government has said Gongloe may still be subject to further investigation although he had not so far been charged with any offence.

Before his release, Wednesday, he was asked some questions by security personnel, all relating to a speech he made in Guinea at the end of March. But he said he had told his questioners that everything he said was already publicly available. The government has no case against me, he said.

Gongloe was detained by police officers on the evening of April 24 and held without warrant or charge. As a result of beatings he suffered during the night, he had to be carried out of the cell the next morning and was taken to S.D.A Cooper hospital in Monrovia.

Gongloe told allAfrica.com that he was beaten by security officers. The government has claimed that he was assaulted by other prison inmates who were angered by his refusal to pay them the 'prison fees' usually exacted from new detainees.

He said that during the beating, he suffered internal injuries and is still urinating blood. Doctors have told him that his kidneys have been damaged and he will need to make daily visits to the hospital for examination and treatment.

"Even after one week of medical treatment, I am still feeling pains in my legs and back. Hearing in my left ear is poor, my right eye is still bad and my body is still covered with bruises," Gongloe told allAfrica.com.

But he said he had not changed his stance: "Despite the terrible experience I had over the past week, my spirit is not broken. I will continue to do the things I used to do before. I will remain an advocate of human rights and democracy."

Earlier the Liberian Bar Association filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Gongloe, when it appeared that he might be forcibly discharged from the hospital and returned to prison. He is expected to attend a hearing in court, Thursday.

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