17 December 2012

Liberia: Illegal Arrest, Detention in Sinoe

Citizens of Butaw District, Sinoe County are said to be living in a state of fear due to illegal arrests and detention of residents of the district by officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police.

On Friday, December 14, 2012, three persons were allegedly arrested, flogged and detained at the Police station in Greenville for publicly opposing the operations of Golden Veroleum.

Golden Veroleum is an agricultural company, cultivating oil palm in Butaw District.

Those arrested and detained include Kelvin Bloh, Annie Tue and Dieco Gleeka were released on Saturday, December 15, 2012 after a night in the police criminal cell without a charge. Annie Tue was allegedly stripped nicked of her lapper for fear that she would have used the lapper to commit suicide in the cell.

They were jailed on Friday allegedly upon the order of Butaw District Commissioner N. Togba Bestman for refusing to sign a document which allows Golden Veroleum to grow oil palm on their ancestral land.

Those arrested were amongst some citizens who rejected attempts to coerce them to sign a document introduced at a joint citizens and Golden Veroluem meeting recently held at Butaw Compound, the Headquarters of the district.

According to Seedey G. Monboe, a youth representative, currently in Butaw, a pick-up filled with armed ERU officers on Friday stormed the district and arrested people identified by Commissioner Bestman.

He told this paper that Commissioner Bestman accompanied the Police to the district.

Mr. Monboe disclosed that several persons including Butaw Compound General Town Chief Teah is currently on the run for fear that he will be arrested and detain.

Mr. Monboe believes that Commissioner Bestman misled the police who failed to investigate complaint taken to them.

He said Commissioner Bestman, like other authorities in the county, are supportive of Golden Veroleum massive land grab in the district.

However, Sinoe County Attorney John A. A. Gabriel on Saturday disclosed that the three persons arrested have been released.

He told this paper that they were signed for by their relatives. Atty. Gabriel threatened that they would be re-arrested and prosecuted if they repeat what they did.

Asked what the citizens did, Attorney Gabriel said they were arrested for threatening the company's managers.

He also alleged that the citizens threatened to "go to war". He also added that they were arrested for rioting.

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