Voice of America (Washington, DC)

30 October 2013

Liberia's Defense Minister Sues Over Assassination Plot Accusations

Liberia's Defense Minister, Brownie Samukai has reportedly filed a $500,000 libel and slander lawsuit against the youth league chairman of the main opposition party Congress for Democratic Change.

Earlier this month, Jefferson Koijee called a news conference and accused Mr. Samukai of planning to assassinate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as she returned to Liberia on October 9th from attending the 68th UN General Assembly.

When the police summoned Mr. Koijee to substantiate his accusations, he was arrested on the orders of the civil law court based on Mr. Samukai's complaint.

Sayma Syrenius Cephus, the lawyer representing Mr. Koijee said the defense minister's lawsuit is meant to prevent his client from cooperating with the police.

"We believe that the lawsuit was premature and more or less believe that it was meant to circumvent the cooperation that Mr. Koijee had promised to give to the police in respect to the plot to assassinate the president. We thought Samukai should have waited for a police clearance of no evidence to the assassination before filing a lawsuit," he said.

Cephus describes the defense minister's lawsuit as a serious political miscalculation.

"He had thought that Koijee would not have the temerity to stand and produce evidence, and on that basis he first took it for a bluff. But when he realized that Koijee was now willing to cooperate with the police, he became apprehensive. That's when he decided to rush the court and decided to use the court to aid and abet his attempt to evade a possible police investigation," Cephus said.

Some have raised the concern that if Koijee, a youth leader of a political party, had any such serious information about a plot to assassinate the president he should have first taken it to the appropriate national security agencies.

Cephus said his client fully understands the magnitude of the allegations he has made against the Defense Minister. But he said Mr. Koijee was being patriotic.

"The revelation provided the basis for deterrence, and had he [Koijee] proceeded to the national security agency or the police to give the necessary information given the bureaucratic nature of our system, we would have found it absolutely difficult to get the information out to avert what was viewed as a plot to destabilize Liberia. So I think it was important for him to have made the disclosure and it was also important for the police to have invited him to see whether he had compelling evidence to produce," Cephus said.

Cephus said even though his client had offered to cooperate with the police, he has advised to give deference to the court "since Mr. Samukai is trying to transform a treasonable charge into a civil action and the police seem quite adamant to proceed".

He said when the matter is called at the court, his client will be able to give instances and compelling evidence in support of his accusations against the defense minister.

Cephus describes his client as a young Liberian patriot who subscribes to the tenets of democracy and the rule of law.

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