14 October 2013

Liberia: Supreme Court Strikes Tah for Rodney Sieh's Release

Just three days after Justice Minister Counselor Christina P. Tah, on October 8, temporarily released Journalist Rodney Sieh from prison, the Supreme Court of Liberia in a writ dated 11 October, has summoned the Attorney General to show 'cause' why she should not be held in contempt.

On October 11, the full bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia, including Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., Associate Justices Kabineh M. Ja'neh, Jamesetta H. Wolokolie, Phillip A.Z. Banks and Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh, commanded the high court's Marshall, Brigade General Amos B. Kesseh Dickson, Sr. to summon Minister Tah to appear before the full bench this Wednesday, October 16 at 9am.

The writ of summons says Minister Tah should appear to show cause "if any, why she should not be held in contempt for releasing Mr. Rodney D. Sieh, Publisher of the Frontpage Africa Newspaper in disregard of the court's order."

Following roughly two months of detention at the Monrovia Central Prison for libel, the Government of Liberia, through the Justice Ministry granted a 30-day temporary release for Rodney Sieh from prison, based on requests made by his legal team, including Cllrs. Fonati Koffa and Benyan Howard.

"I present my compliments and refer to your letter dated September 27, 2013, requesting for compassionate leave for your client, Mr. Rodney Sieh, Editor-In-Chief of the FrontpageAfrica Newspaper in keeping with Chapter 34, Section 34.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law, 1LCLR," Minister Tah wrote.

In the letter dated October 7, she told Mr. Sieh's legal counsel, Cllr. Beyan D. Howard that she had reviewed the documents requested in the ministry's letter of September 30, 2013 which were not received until October 3, 2013, causing delay in their response.

"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," the Minister said.

The Justice Ministry had instructed Sieh's counsel that he must not leave the City of Monrovia without first seeking the permission of the Assistant Minister for the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) during the 30-day period.

Pressure has been mounting here by local media outlets, demanding Rodney Sieh's release, despite the court's decision following a jury trial that found Mr. Sieh guilty of libel.

Since his imprisonment, the FPA Editor was several times taken to hospital out of prison for medical attention since he began serving his sentence for failure to pay US$1. 5m awarded to the former Agriculture Minister, Dr. Chris Toe, at the end of the libel suit.

In a communication addressed to Minister Tah, dated September 27, 2013, Sieh's legal counsel Beyan D. Howard, cited the legal interest of his client, who he said, at the time was in custody at the Monrovia Central Prison and repeatedly treated at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.

"In this regard, I respectfully request that you grant Mr. Sieh compassionate leave under 34.20 of the Criminal Procedure Code," the counsel pleaded.

The counsel among other things, argued that Sieh had not been convicted of a criminal offense and was not a danger to the public; and that his continued confinement may likely lead to a lapse of mental illness.


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