Liberia: 'We Don't Want Political Prisoners'

-Says Alexander Cummings as gov't releases 13 of the 20 protesters from jail

Minutes after Magistrate Kennedy Peabody of the Monrovia City Court ordered the release of the 20 jailed protesters from the Monrovia Central Prison, the political leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander B. Cummings, who was at the hearing on Wednesday, June 12, told journalists that there should be no political prisoners in the country.

Cummings made the statement when he walked outside of the courtroom at the Temple of Justice shortly after Magistrate Peabody made the pronouncement.

The ANC political leader said that his presence at the Temple of Justice yesterday was to demonstrate his support for the defendants, most of whom are students of the University of Liberia, who were being held because they had affiliated with the CoP.

"The case is political, and we have to understand that there should not be any political prisoners at this time in our country's history," Cummings said.

Meanwhile 13 of the 20 detainees were released on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, while the seven remaining are expected to gain their freedom today.

The defendants were held for their alleged individual roles played on June 5, when Montserrado County District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah's supporters protested against the police invitation of the lawmaker based on allegations that he ordered the flogging of a man believed to be a resident of Gaye Town, Old Road where Kolubah also resides.

However, Magistrate Peabody's decision to release the defendants was in response to the mandate by Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie of Criminal Court 'A' at the Temple of Justice.

In Willie's mandate to Peabody, copy of which is in the possession of this newspaper said, "You are hereby mandated to resume jurisdiction of the case."

Throughout Wednesday's trial, Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Edwin Martins, the lead prosecutor who confiscated the case files from the Monrovia City Court, was nowhere around when the Magistrate Peabody ordered the defendants released, following a brief deliberation in court.

There were about 15 minutes of closed door discussion in the office of Magistrate Peabody, between he and the defense team, which include Attorney Kofi Woods, which led to the release of the defendants without the lawyers securing a bond for their release.

It can be recalled that Magistrate Peabody had scheduled hearing into the case for Tuesday, June 11 by 9:00 a.m., but the magistrate, without the knowledge of the defense team, transferred the case files to the Cllr. Martins, a lead prosecutor.

Peabody's decision prompted the defense team to file a complaint of summary proceedings before Willie against the magistrate, which resulted to Peabody's stance on Wednesday to have ordered the release of all 20 protesters.

At the hearing, huge crowd, mostly students and family members of the defendants, rallied outside the courtroom to demand the release of their colleagues, who had been in custody since June 5.

Despite the intervention of riot officers from the Liberia National Police, the protesters continued as they sang anti government songs.

Having assembled in front of the Monrovia City Court, the protesters dispersed immediately upon hearing that Magistrate Peabody approved the release of their colleagues.

Peabody however clarified that he was not aware about the detention of the protesters at the Monrovia City Court. The defendants were held at the Monrovia Central Prison on Saturday, June 8, 2019.

"It was Associate Magistrate Eric Cooper, who sent the protesters to jail; he was the person who first presided over the matter when police sent to case to court," Peabody said.

According to him, when the case reached his attention, he informed one of the defense lawyers (not named) to sign for the defendants, "unfortunately, the lawyer refused to accept my offer."

He continued, "I made the offer but the lawyer refused to accept it, so nobody should insinuate that the court refused to release the defendants. In fact, I used my own discretion for the lawyer to release the defendants."

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