25 March 2019

Liberia: Bomi County Attorney 'Flogged', Detained At Tubmanburg Central Prison

Immediately following Cllr. Juma P. Karnley's release from detention at the Tubmanburg Central Prison, the GOL's lead lawyer and Bomi County attorney has filed a formal complaint against Cllr. William B. Sando, resident judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court before the Supreme Court.

Karnley is said to have been released based on the intervention of Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), and Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean.

"During my ordeal instituted by Judge Sando, my phone was taken away from me, and my coat suit and gown that I wore was torn; they inflicted wounds above my left eye and various parts of my body," Karnley's letter of complaint submitted to Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor against Judge Sando alleged.

Further to his letter, Karnley claimed that "Judge Sando authorized his officers to handcuff me in open court to have my liberty restrained, and thereafter, I was forced into a vehicle that took me to the Tubmanburg Central Prison."

Karnley's letter said he was also released due to the pressure from the Ministry of Justice and the intervention of those with close connections to the hierarchy of the country's justice system.

According to the letter, "the conduct of Judge Sando was contrary to law and constituted gross misuse and abuse of power purposely humiliated, disgraced, defamed and publicly ridiculed me despite being a fellow colleague and a member of the Supreme Court Bar."

Karnley's letter requested prompt investigation into the matter for appropriate action so that it can serve as a deterrent for would-be judges, who are engaged in misusing and abusing their power and authority and, to also save the good image of the country's judiciary.

In his complaint, dated March 22, 2019 to Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, Karnley claimed that his ordeal started when Judge Sando held him in contempt of court.

The Bomi County attorney further claimed that the contempt charge came when he expressed an opposing view regarding a criminal case between one Alieu Siryon, on whose behalf the government instituted a lawsuit against defendant Mohammed Jabateh about four years ago.

Cllr. Karnley explained that the government's lawsuit was to compel defendant Jabateh to payback US$2,000 that he received from Siryon to purchase a vehicle for him.

After Jabateh had allegedly refused to pay back Siryon's US$2,000, he wrote a complaint against Jabateh to Judge Sando.

Acting on Siryon's letter, Judge Sando on Monday, March 18, 2019, decided to institute Action of Debt against one Mohammed Fofana, who had later intervened to settle the dispute, demanding that he made payment of US$1,000 against the US$2,000.

But Karnley claimed that Siryon refused Fofana's offer of the US$1,000. Instead, he chose to pursue the action of debt against Fofana in court.

When the communication reached Judge Sando, he immediately requested Fofana to appear before him the following day to answer to the complaint.

It was during that hearing Karnley claimed he was contacted by Fofana to accompany him to Judge Sando's hearing, which he accepted, "but unfortunately, I became the victim."

Though Karnley claimed that he was initially part of the case, Judge Sando at the time chose to leave him out of the matter. "Judge Sando held Fofana liable to pay the US$2,000, and his failure to do so led to his detention at the Tubmanburg Central Prison," Karnley claimed.

It was during hearings into the matter that the County Attorney claimed that he expressed a contrary view to Judge Sando's action to hold Fofana liable to pay US$2,000 to Siryon.

That payment was intended to satisfy Sando's ruling against Fofana, who was not a party to the initial case, which decision Karnley said he seriously rejected.

During the hearing, Fofana was never allowed to be represented by a lawyer after Judge Sando refused his participation, according to Karnley.

While Judge is yet to speak to the complaint, legal experts informed this newspaper that the Supreme Court is expected to hear Cllr. Karnley's complaint anytime this week.

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