31 January 2013

Liberia: Protest Planner Secretly Arrested - Gongloe

Photo: AllAfrica
Riot police quelling a protest. (file photo)

Human Rights Activist Tiawon Saye Gongloe has alarmed the arrest of Mr. Vandallah R. Patricks, one of the planners of Monday's protest at the entrance of the Capitol Building.

Cllr. Gongloe told a news conference in Monrovia Wednesday that Mr. Patricks was picked up by plain clothes individuals believed to be security officers from the Liberian National Police and later turned over to the National Security Agency or NSA.

The Chairman of the pro-advocacy group, identified as the Concerned Intellectual Association (C.I.A), was reportedly arrested at 10:30pm Monday night in the Old Road Community in Sinkor for allegedly posting a message on his Facebook page threatening to mobilize about hundred persons into street demonstration during the ongoing UN High Level Panel Conference as signal to the international community that the country has been forgotten by the Government of Liberia.

Mr. Patricks also announced on a local Radio Phone-in program that his group would also explain to visiting guests attending the Monrovia Conference that "things are not well economically, socially and politically in Liberia", something Cllr. Gongloe said was not a violation of the Constitution of the country.

Cllr. Gongloe, one time Labor Minister under Ellen Administration, indicated to journalists that upon receiving the information about the arrest, he immediately contacted the Director Police, Col. Chris Massaquoi who denied having any knowledge about the arrest, but promised to get back to him.

He noted that through his investigation, it was established that Mr. Patricks was arrested by the police and later turned over to the National Security Agency for detention and interrogation, noting further that upon arrival at the NSA in Mamba Point along with his colleague, Atty. Alfred Brownell of the Green Advocate International, he was informed that Mr. Patricks was in custody, and that the NSA would release him later.

However, the official spokesperson of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Sam Collins, reiterated the police lack of knowledge of Mr. Patricks' arrest. According to him, Patricks was allegedly "forced and pulled over in a black dark jeep with license plate number RL-52 and driven off in a very aggressive mood, leaving family members and friends wondering about his whereabouts.

The Human Rights Activist pointed out that mid night arrest of citizens by the government without court warrant was troubling and worrisome, considering the horrible records of the past regimes. He assured that he and his colleagues were considering a 'hiccup lawsuit' against the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government for the violation of Mr. Patricks' rights.

However, when contacted on the matter, officers of the NSA declined to comment on grounds that they were not prepared to speak to the media. This paper had earlier gathered that Patrick was arrested upon the order of the Director of the Executive Protection Service, Mr. Othello Warrack, but the EPS Boss has denied having any knowledge of the incident.

When contacted on Tuesday via mobile phone, EPS Director Othello Warrack said: "I am busy right now. I don't have idea on what you are saying, but come to my office any time for us to talk."

Reports earlier said Patrick was picked up on Monday night from his office in the Old Road community by five plain clothe security men believed to have come from the Executive Protection Service. Eyewitnesses told this paper Tuesday that Patrick was taken away in a jeep with license plate RL52.

Residents in the community said the men, who arrested Patrick were dressed in black coats and introduced themselves as security officers, who needed Patrick to answer questions at the Liberia National Police Headquarters on Capitol Hill.

The New Dawn also gathered that Patrick was one of the masterminds of Monday's street protest by University of Liberia students right in front of the Capitol where President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was addressing members of the 53rd Liberian Legislature.

The UL students were protesting an alleged plan by the University Administration to increase credit by US$5.00. They called on the President to intervene. Members of the Concerned Intellectual Association discourse committee and the Campaigner for Change said Patrick's mobile phone has been off since he was taken away.

According to them, they are worried about their colleague, and urged the government to prevail on its security apparatus to release Patrick. Police Spokesman Sam Collins told a local radio station in Monrovia that Patrick was arrested, but not by the police.

Sam Collins however did not disclose who or which security unit did the arrest, but contradicted himself when he added that Patrick is not a threat to state security so he is not an arresting element.

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