Following nearly two months in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison for libel, the Government of Liberia has granted a 30-day temporary release to Journalist Rodney Sieh from prison.
Mr. Sieh was release on Tuesday based on a request made by his legal team, including Cllrs. Fonati Koffa and Benyan Howard.
Pressure has been mounted here by local media practitioner and institutions in demand of Rodney Sieh's release. Justice Ministry's Public Affairs Director Maude Somah told this paper Tuesday that Mr. Sieh, Editor of the FrontPageAfrica Newspaper, has been advised to seek permission from the Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Corrections to travel out of Monrovia.
She said the compassionate release was effective immediately yesterday, but clarified that such to a a defendant did not mean he or she has automatically been freed.
"After the thirty days, he stays under our custody; should there be any reason for extension for his release that will be determined... " she said.
In line with Chapter 34, Section 34.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law, Madam Somah said, Rodney Sieh's legal counsels wrote the Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Minister Christina Tah for compassionate leave on behalf of their client, noting that the request by his lawyers was written on 27 September and received by the Justice Ministry on 3 October, 2013.
"Based on that, and in keeping with the law, the Attorney General granted temporary release for 30 days, effective October 8, 2013," she said.
Madam Somah could not, however, speak to what pushed the lawyers to request for a temporary release, when this paper asked her as to whether journalist Sieh's lawyers were attaching health related issues to reasons for the request of passionate release.
The FPA Editor was severally taken to hospital out of prison for medical attention since he began serving his jail sentence for failure to pay US$1.5m awarded former Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe at the end of the libel suit.
In a letter dated 27 September addressed to Minister Tah, Mr. Sieh's lawyer, Counsellor Benyan D. Howard argued that his client was not convicted of criminal offense, and therefore not a danger to the public, indicating to her that Mr. Sieh has already apologized to the Court for the disrespect he has shown in his attitude, writings and utterances.
The legal counsel further noted that Sieh's continued confinement may likely lead to a lapse of deliberating mental illness, saying that the lawyers for both parties were currently working to resolve the underlying action, among others.
In her response to the legal counsel, Minister Tah said: "Based upon your request and that of Atty. J. Fonati Koffa, we hereby grant the request for compassionate leave for a period of thirty (30) days effective October 8, 2013."
She instructed that during this period, Mr. Sieh is advised not to leave the City of Monrovia without first seeking the permission of the Assistant Minister for Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) at the Justice Ministry.