Liberia's Solicitor General, Cllr. Betty Lamin-Blamo, says the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr. Christiana Tah, acted within the confines of the law when she granted the jailed Managing Editor of the FrontpageAfrica Newspaper, Mr. Rodney Sieh a 30-day compassionate leave.
According to Cllr. Blamo, Justice Minister Tah, took the action in keeping with Chapter 34 Section 34.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law, 1LCLR.
She said her boss' action was a result of a formal communication from Mr. Sieh's lawyers in which they requested for the 30-day compassionate leave on health grounds. She was speaking on Monday, October 20, 2013 when she appeared before the full bench of the Supreme Court at the Temple of Justice.
The Temple of Justice is situated on Capitol Hill, Monrovia.
The solicitor general was one of the lawyers who had gone to the high court to represent her boss who was earlier summoned to give reason why she should not be held in contempt for releasing Journalist Sieh temporarily.
The Supreme Court, which is regarded as the final arbiter of justice, termed the release of journalist Sieh 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.
Speaking further, Cllr. Blamo told the high court that journalist Sieh had refused to eat and even threatened to kill himself if he was not released on health grounds.
She further told the court the minister also took into consideration these expressed concerns of the journalist and released him temporarily.
She added that Mr. Sieh was advised not to leave the city of Monrovia without first seeking the permission of the Assistant Minister for the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR). But in their counter arguments, the friends of the Supreme Court pointed out that Chapter 34 Section 34.20 of the Criminal Procedure Law, 1LCLR.is not a basis for the compassionate release.
They made it clear that the Supreme Court has original Jurisdiction over the charge of contempt in line with the constitution, which is regarded as the organic law of the land. They warned that anyone who interferes with the judgment of the court will be held liable of contempt.
Thereafter, the Supreme Court quizzed the solicitor general regarding the justice minister's action.
In its cross examination, the bench quizzed the SG as to whether Mr. Sieh was in prison when his release was ordered ? She responded in the negative.
The bench noted that the medical record of Mr. Sieh showed that he was admitted on September 21,2013, and discharged on October 10,2013, and the letter addressed to the minister was dated on October 7,2013.
The Supreme Court pointed out that the circumstances of the journalist release was never reflected in the record.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has reserved ruling in the matter. 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.