30 November 2012

Liberia: U.S.$One Million Trial Gets Green Light

Supreme Court Chamber Justice Philip Banks has given the green light to Criminal Court 'C' presiding Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh to resume hearing the case of the pastor and his wife who are standing trial for the alleged theft of the US$1 million intended for the construction of a church in Liberia.

The trial was temporarily halted last week when Pastor Matthew Sakueh's lawyers filed a prohibition with the Court seeking to prevent the judge from hearing the case.

In the seven-count petition for prohibition filed on November 23, pastor Sakueh, through his lawyers, accused Judge Gbeneweleh of "handing the case contrary to legal procedure" by allowing witnesses who are expected to testify for the state to sit in the courtroom and listen to the testimony of another state witnesses.

In the letter from the Chamber Justice dated on November 26, 2012 and addressed to Criminal Court 'C,' Justice Banks ordered the Judge to proceed with the trial in keeping with law.

"By directive of His Honor Philip A.Z. Banks,III, Associate Justices presiding in Chambers, You are hereby mandated to resume jurisdiction in the above entitle cause of action and proceed according to law. Moreover, the stay order of November 23, 2012 is hereby lifted," the letter pointed out.

Although the Associate Justice's communications did not explain the legal basis for his decision, legal experts said the Justice in Chamber did not see any merit in the writ of prohibition. He then mandated the presiding judge to resume jurisdiction over the case in keeping with law.

Meanwhile, Judge Gbeneweleh has set next Monday December 3, 2012 for the resumption of the trial at 9:00 am at the Criminal Court 'C,' Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

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