27 February 2013

Liberia: Mary Broh Escapes Citizens' Arrest

Yesterday was a dramatic scene at the Monrovia City Court when the Acting City Major of Monrovia, Mary Broh narrowly escaped an arrest by hundreds of citizens including passersby. It was reported that Madam Broh went to the City Court to issue a writ of prohibition against the mandate of the House of Representatives.

The House has earlier ordered the arrest of Madam Broh and Supt. Kpaan and their subsequent detention for obstructing justice. She is currently on the run and her whereabouts unknown.

It was astonishing to many onlookers that the Acting Major resurfaced on the streets of Monrovia after the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House Brigadier General Martin Johnson has been on the hunt for her.

Eyewitnesses on the ground of the Temple of Justice told reporters that Madam Broh was closely protected and escorted by City Police officers upon her arrival at the court. The eyewitnesses confirmed to our reporters that after Madam Broh concluded the preparation of her prohibition from the court, she could not come outside of the court because of the presence of an angry mob poised to attack her.

Considering the tension on the ground, officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) were deployed at the front of the court to protect Madam Broh so that she can find an escape route.

It was alleged that a black Nissan Patrol jeep marked NG 291 driven by security officers arrived at the scene and picked up the Acting Mayor to an unknown destination.

Interestingly, journalists who went to cover the drama between the Mayor and the angry citizens were prevented to take photos. Journalists who attempted to capture the scene were arrested, detained and their cameras smashed.

Some of the citizens were also arrested and detained too. Journalist Nathaniel Walker and a reporter from Kings FM were arrested but the intervention of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has led to the release of the two reporters.

The plenary of the Liberian Senate has thrown its weight behind the House of Representatives for its decision to incarcerate Monrovia Acting City Mayor, Mary Broh and Superintendent Grace Kpaan.

During its 12th day sitting of the 2nd session, the 53rd Liberian Senate expressed its solidarity to members of the Lower House and described the action of the two government officials troubling and a complete defiance not only to the lawmakers but also to the Liberian people.

The Senate in its motion proffered by River Gee Senator Fedrick Cherue yesterday in chambers stated that the Senate supports the action of the House and is therefore pending on taking similar action.

17 Senators voted in favor of the motion with none against and 1 abstention. The plenary has already instructed the Secretary of the Senate to do a formal communication to the Speaker of the House expressing their support to punish Major Broh and Supt. Kpaan.

Several Senators including Sen. Wotorson, Alphonso Gaye, Sando Johnson, Lahai Lassana, Armah Jallah among others have frowned on the attitude of Madam Broh and Supt.Kpaan for their misconduct concerning the decision of plenary which is the highest decision making body.

"Mr. Pro-Temp and colleagues; old things are re-surfacing from the past. We criticized other regimes for instituting lawlessness in the country. Today, similar behavior is coming back. If we don't take action to stop this ugly behavior, we will be leading to something that would bring trouble to this land again. This attitude of people coming from the Executive disrespecting us as direct representatives of the people must stop," Sen. Sando Johnson blasted.

In a related development, the House of Representatives has imposed a fine of LD$4,999 on Gender and Development Minister Julia Duncan Cassell for making inciting comments against the mandate of plenary to jail both Broh and Supt. Kpaan. The plenary reached the decision yesterday and further instructed the Minister to write a letter of apology to that Honorable Body and publish similar letter in three local dailies immediately.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has charged Monrovia acting City Mayor Broh for obstructing Government's Operations, a crime under Sub chapter A, section 12, IV of the Liberian Code of Law (LCL) Revised of the Liberia Penal Code.

Liberia's Attorney General Christiana Tah told a news conference yesterday evening that the crime is a baillable offence under the Liberian law but that has nothing to do with the previous rigmarole now ensuing between the acting mayor and the National Legislature.

Justice Minister Tah said the decision by the prosecuting arm of the government is in line with an allegation that she prevented state authority from carrying out their functions in keeping with law during the commitment of Superintendent Grace Kpaan at the Monrovia Central Prison (MPC) on February 21, 2013.

Explaining in the Ministry of Justice's presence at the prison compound, the Attorney General said it was based upon a complaint by the superintendent that her commitment by the House of Representatives may not have been warranted.

She said the Ministry of Justice instantly filed for a petition for a Writ of Prohibition before the Justice in Chambers at the Supreme Court. "According to information in the possession of the Ministry of Justice, by the time the Ministry has obtained a stay order to facilitate the release of the superintendent until the matter could be heard by the court, a rowdy crowd had gathered at the MCP obstructing and preventing the State authorities from carrying their functions in keeping with law," she said further.

She disclosed that based on the petition filed by the Ministry of Justice on behalf of Superintendent Kpaan, a Writ of Prohibition was ordered issued along with a Stay Order to halt the arrest and incarceration of Madam Kpaan while it is understood that the private counsel of Madam Broh had also petitioned the Supreme Court for a Writ of Prohibition in response to an order from the House of Representatives that she be arrested and imprisoned.

The Attorney General said she was not sure but it seemed apparent that the Writ of Prohibition was granted by the Justice in Chambers before the close of the court's activities yesterday. At the Supreme Court yesterday, the Justice in Chambers, Philip A.Z. Banks III held a conference with lawyers representing the House of Representatives, the Ministry of Justice and Superintendent Kpaan.

The conference which was occasioned by the filing of a bill of information on the petition for a Writ of Prohibition filed on February 21 was barred of coverage by judicial reporters. It is learnt that the Ministry of Justice succeeded in filling for a second Writ of Prohibition against the House of Representatives.

The Justice in Chambers granted that petition on grounds that having thoroughly reviewed the various petitions as well as the Bill of Information and believed that the issues presented by the petitioners were of constitutional significance and needed resolution by the court.

According to information from the Chambers Justice Banks, in regards to such matters as separation of powers, due process of law as well as contempt powers, it is prudent that the alternative writs lie so that issues presented could be resolved by the court which is under obligation to interpret the law.

The case has been forwarded before the full bench which is expected to open on the second working Monday in March for the March Term of the Supreme Court and it is decided that priority will be accorded said matter.

In other legal matters, the Ministry of Justice said it has come to its attention that Ms. Miatta Fahnbulleh was allegedly confronted by a group of young men and manhandled while visiting the Capitol Building on February 22. Information gathered said this was due to her presence among the rowdy crowd at the prison on the day of Superintendent Kpaan's commitment to have her jailed.

The Ministry of Justice has called on all citizens to be calm and law abiding and allow the law to take its course as the government is determined to re-establish the rule of law in Liberia.

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