4 January 2013

Liberia: 'I Was Never Investigated'

Journalist Darlington C. Pelenah who was arrested and subsequently indicted along with three others on allegation of armed robbery says he was never investigated by the police following his arrest.

Mr. Palenah said he was reportedly told by the officers who took him from his home on July 28, following the incident on July 25, 2012 that he was needed by the commander of the Zone Five Police Station in Joe Bar without being informed about the crime for which he was arrested.

Testifying on cross-examination recently at Criminal Court "A" at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, Palenah alleged that he was later picked up and taken to the Headquarters of the LNP without any formal charge.

"I was never investigated by the Liberia National Police (LNP); I was arrested at about 7:00 am and held in communicado for three days without being charged," Palenah said.

Article 21 of the Liberian Constitution states that: "Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed of the charges, of the right to remain silent and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law..."

Palenah said he was never informed about the crime for which he was arrested until he and his colleagues were taken to the Monrovia City Court in August 2012.

However, prosecution lawyers denied the assertion by the witness and announced that they would produce a rebutter witness to prove that the defendant was duly informed about the charges and was subsequently investigated by officers of the Liberia National Police following his arrest.

According to a three-page indictment drawn by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County on August 20, 2012, the defendants committed the crime on July 25 in the GSA Road community in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.

The 12-count indictment stated that on the above mentioned date, as complainant Weeks Thomas and his boys, Edwin Thomas and Chris Kettor drove home from their business center (Forex Exchange Bureau), the defendants rushed on them with several single barrel guns and immediately placed the complainant at gun-point and commanded them to lie on the ground.

The document said it was at that point one of the defendants grabbed the plastic that was containing US$17,000 and made away with it, while firing above their heads.

The indictment stated that prior to the departure of the defendants, one of the plaintiffs, Edwin Thomas managed to have recognized Pelenah and was reportedly slapped in the face by Pelenah.

"It was then that he (Thomas) was shot in the head by one of the defendants and was taken to the Catholic Hospital," the indictment noted.

The defendants were separately arrested on July 26 and 29, 2012 at different locations in Monrovia.

However, armed robbery is a capital offence punishable by life imprisonment or death based on its degree.

Meanwhile, the trial is expected today with defendant Pelenah still on the witness stand under cross-examination.

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