14 March 2017

Liberia: Sable Mining Trial - Defendants Want Court Suppress Evidence

Monrovia — Lawyers representing Cllr. Varney Sherman, E.C.B. Jones Alex Tyler, Eugene Shannon, Christopher Onanuga and Willie Belleh have raised objections to some of the evidence presented to the court by the prosecution, citing possibilities of them being tampered with.

In a motion, Objections to All Emails and Spread Sheets, the defendants reminded the court that unlawful eavesdropping and surveillance is a first degree misdemeanor. They said such also includes trespass on property with the purpose of subjecting anyone to eavesdropping or other surveillance in a private place.

They also referenced the Penal Law section 19.1 which also prohibits installing in any private place, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there, any device for observing, photographing, recording, amplifying or broadcasting sounds or events in such place which would not ordinarily be audible or comprehensible outside, without consent of the persons entitled to privacy.

Their objections relate to spread sheets containing monies that were allegedly disbursed by Cllr. Sherman to the co-defendants and email exchanges amongst the defendants in on trial.

They argued in their motion though the laws governing the internet technology is not covered by the Liberian law, by internationally accepted principle, hacking is a criminal offense.

"Objectors denied the existence of the aforesaid emails and spreadsheet and the authenticity and legitimacy of their contents."

"What is more important is that it is common knowledge in the field of internet technology that the hacker has the capacity to doctor the contents of any material in which he has hacked.

"That is, the hacker ran change in the contents of the materials and caused the materials to make representations which the original sender or receiver did not intend," the motion contended.

The defendants in count 7 of the motion said the emails and spreadsheet were obtained by illegally entering into the email account or internet account of Sherman & Sherman and/or Sable Mining Africa Limited and doctored the contents of the emails and the spreadsheets or created emails and spreadsheets intended to incriminate them.

Former Speaker Tyler who also objected to several pieces of evidence adduced against him in a separate motion, contending that the documents were products of hearsay which, according to him, contravenes Section 25.7 of the Criminal Procedure Law.

He also argued that the documents did not meet Section 17.1 of the Criminal Procedure Law. This section of the law addresses how disposition may be taken.

Tyler further informed the court through his motion of Objection to Marking of Evidence that the documents, especially the alleged email from Heine van Niekerk to Varney Sherman is in violation of Article 21 (h) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

Article 21 (h) of the Constitution states: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital or infamous crime except in cases of impeachment, cases arising in the Armed Forces and petty offenses, unless upon indictment by Grand Jury; and in all such cases, the accused shall have the right to a speedy, public and impartial trial by a jury of the vicinity, unless such person shall, with appropriate understanding, expressly waive the right to a jury trial.

In all criminal cases, the accused shall have the right to be represented by counsel of his choice, to confront witnesses against him and to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.

He shall not be compelled to furnish evidence against himself and he shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. No person shall be subject to double jeopardy."

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