19 February 2013

Liberia: Ex-Police Chief Faces Jury Trial

Photo: The New Dawn
Police patrol.

Prosecutors and defense counsels have selected 13 jurors, and denied 14 others during their sequestration process on Monday to commence prosecuting former Liberian Police Director Beatrice Munah Sieh-Brown, and four others indicted on multiple corruption charges.

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC indicted the former police boss in October 2008 along with co-defendants Harris Manneh Dunn, Prince O. A. Akinremi, and two others for allegedly diverting US$199, 800.00 intended to purchase uniform sets for officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Police Support Unit (PSU) into their personal use.

But upon reading the indictment to the defendants yesterday by the clerk of Criminal Court "C", the defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges of economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy.

Having exhausted the petty jury of 27 members on Monday, the assigned judge of Criminal Court "C" Judge Yussif D. Kabba ordered the court clerk to communicate to various municipalities for additional qualified and competent citizens out of whom two jurors will be selected today, Tuesday, to complete the trial jury panel to 15.

Among jurors denied yesterday were students, nursing baby mothers, among others, who could not be selected to serve the trial term owing to their separate excuses and obligations as were openly expressed during the selection process. Besides, others were denied on preemptory grounds, while others could not identify or write a given figure, among others.

Meanwhile, the ex-police chief's trial is being headed by the LACC, assisted by other lawyers after the Justice Ministry issued the defendants clearance on September 30, 2011, exonerating them from answering to the charges on grounds that the LACC did not provide sufficient evidence against them. The LACC is exercising Section 15.1 of the Act establishing the commission which withdraws exclusivity prosecutorial authority from the Justice Ministry.

Section 11.4 of the Act creating the commission also gives direct prosecutorial power to the commission through the court, if for whatever reason; the Justice Ministry does not take action to prosecute a case of corruption forwarded to it by the LACC within three calendar months of the receipt of the request to prosecute. The case has been assigned for this morning at 10am before the Criminal Court "C".

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