Sierra Leone: Opposition Member Dr Sylvia Blyden Detained Again

Dr. Sylvia Blyden (right) with fellow activist Hussain Muckson Sesay (left), on June 1, after both were released on bail.
3 June 2020

Dr Sylvia Blyden, a leading member of the main opposition  All People's Congress (APC) is back in jail in Freetown after her bail was revoked. Blyden was released on on bail last week after 29 days in detention.

It is reported that judicial officials revoked the bail because she posted comments on social media after her release.

"From my cross examination of their first State witness, it was clear they had no case against me," Blyden said in an email message just before she was re-detained.

Blyden is an activist and commentator who served as minister of social welfare, gender and children's affairs and special executive assistant to Sierra Leone's former president, Ernest Bai Koroma, who left office in 2018. He was succeeded by Julius Maada Bio, a retired Brigadier General, the candidate of the Sierra Leone People's Party, who defeated the ruling APC candidate in the closely contested 2018 election.

Last month, Bio accused the APC of an "unrelenting barrage of attacks" aimed at making the west African nation "ungovernable". In a May 9 Tweet, the President warned: "Anybody who incites, plans, supports, undertakes, or is involved in any manner of violence in #SierraLeone  will be dealt with within the broad spectrum of the law."

Supporters say Blyden's posts while she was out on bail had no bearing on the charges against her and question whether Sierra Leone has a law that prevents a person from exercising freedom of expression on social media, while facing charges in court.

"The arbitrary arrest and the subsequent detention of Dr Blyden were connected to trumped-up charges brought against her by the government after she called on Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio to respect democracy, human rights, and to take more appropriate measures to tackle COVID 19, in the public interest," a group of #FreeDrBlyden supporters said in a lengthy statement issued during a press briefing in Freetown last week.

Sierra Leonean journalist Foday Morris contributed to this report.

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