The trial of 19 Grand Gedeans facing multiple charges, including mercenarism-which is taking place at Criminal Court "D" at the Temple of Justice has taken a rocky start due to the implementation of a tough juror selection process.
Over 50 prospective jurors recruited from the various municipalities around Monrovia with the vision of serving as jurors in the case were seen leaving the courtroom Monday morning in a highly frustrated mood as defense lawyers denied them.
Though the law requires that to become a juror one must be able to read and write, some of the prospective jurors fell short of reading and writing while others have been denied because of the presentation of fake addresses.
Up to press time, only 13 out of the 15 jurors needed by the court to hear the case and determine the facts had been chosen in a selection process that has been held on four different occasions.
As a result of the constant denial of the Jurors, which is yet to accumulate to the needed number of 15, presiding Judge Yussif Kaba on Monday adjourned the case to be resumed on Friday at 10 o'clock in the morning to afford the court the opportunity of scouting another batch of jurors.
In November 2012, the 19 Grand Gedeans were indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County for their alleged role in the cross border attacks along the Liberia-Ivory Coast border by men believed to be loyalists of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who is current in the Hague facing world crime charges.
Part of the grand Jury's indictment stated that to effectuate their plans, the defendants from various refugees' camps and towns in Grand Gedeh along the border with Ivory Coast recruited and caused to be recruited for mercenary activities, allegedly received training into the Thai forest in Grand Gedeh County operated by so defendant George Moore, solicited and received funding from pro Gbargbo loyalists for attacks into Ivory Coast.
According to the Grand Jury, it is against Chapter 11, section 11.13 of the New Penal Law of Liberia and therefore a violation of said law when Liberian citizens engage themselves in the act of mercenarism as individuals, groups, associations or representatives of the state itself with the intent of opposing by armed violence, a process of self determination on the territorial integrity of another state.
However, during the appearance of the 19 Grand Gedeans in court earlier last week, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the 35-count indictment when it was read to them in court.
Each of the defendants calmly responded: "I am not guilty, I am not guilty, the government lied on me," hereby taking issue with state prosecutors to prove their case against the 19 who have been in detention since 2012.
In the trial, Solicitor General Betty Larmie Blamo, Montserrado County Attorney Daku Mulbah, is representing the state among others while the defense Counsel is being represented by Tiawon Gongloe, Dempster Brown and Arthur Johnson among others.