Liberia's Justice Minister and Attorney General, Cllr. Christiana Tah, is expected to reappear before the Supreme Court of Liberia today, Monday, October 21, 2013 to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for releasing the jailed Managing Editor of the FrontpageAfrica Newspaper, Mr. Rodney Sieh.
In a communication from the high court, the Francis S. Korkpor-Bench commanded the Marshall of the Supreme Court to invite Justice Minister Tah Wednesday, at about 9:00a.m, to show cause, why she should not be held in contempt.
The Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of Justice, termed the release of the journalist as a disregard of the Court's order even though his rights to seek medical treatment from time to time while in prison whenever necessary was not surrendered.
In response to the invitation, Minister Tah appeared before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. But the hearing, which did not take place as scheduled, witnessed a large turnout of journalists and civil society advocates and supporters of Mr. Sieh.
The hearing was rescheduled for today based on an appeal by the Friends of the high court-lawyers of the Supreme Court, namely: Counselors Cyril Jones, Negbalee Warner and David Jallah.
They asked the court for continuance-time in order to prepare their legal memorandum. The appeal for continuance as requested by the Friends of the Supreme Court was endorsed by Chief Justice Korkpor.
Ahead of the contempt hearing, the justice minister has justified her position, saying she acted in the confines of the law.
Among other things, she added that the decision to release Journalist Sieh on 'compassionate' grounds forms part of her function as attorney-general of the country.
It can be recalled that on Tuesday, October 8, 2013, the Government of Liberia (GOL) through the Ministry of Justice granted Mr. Sieh a 'compassionate' leave for the period of 30 days effective as of October 8, 2013.
Chief Justice Frances Korkpor
In a communication dated October 7, 2013 and addressed to Cllr. Beyan D. Howard, Mr. Sieh's lawyer, a copy of which is in possession of this paper, the Minister Tah said this was in keeping with Chapter 34, Section 34.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law, 1LCLR.
According to Minister Tah, the government action was also based on a formal request by Cllr. Howard and Atty. J. Fonati Koffa.
However, she advised that Mr. Sieh will not leave the city of Monrovia without first seeking the permission of the Assistant Minister for the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR).
But the question on the lips of some legal luminaries is that: "What are the Justices so apparently obsessed with Rodney Sieh to the extent that they are willing to put the Court in disrepute on such a petty matter; especially where the law is very simple and clear?"
According to them, the Justice Minister acted appropriately in keeping with the law and there is no need to summon her.
They warned that if the matter is not handled appropriately, it could send wrong signal to the outsiders that indeed the case is 'politically driven'.
Mr. Sieh, a prominent Liberian journalist, was ordered jailed by the Civil Law in August of this because of his failure to pay the amount of US$1,534,000.00 and L$10,500 to former agriculture minister, Dr. Chris Toe for damages in a libel suit.
In addition, Mr. Sieh also failed to pay US$90,000 and L$6,800 as cost of the court. It can be recalled that sometimes ago, Dr. Toe sued the Management of FPA for libel. Toe claimed the paper defamed his reputation when it published series of articles linking him to corruption. According to him, the published articles against him were not based on facts.
FrontPage Africa took an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia, but was unable to perfect the appeal bond. Based on the legal proceedings, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court judgment and ordered the bail of Cost on the FPA.
Despite this ruling against the FPA, the paper has since stood by its story against Dr. Toe. Mr. Sieh persistently stated that he did not do anything wrong.