Liberia: Samukai, Prosecutors Battle At Supreme Court

State lawyers and convicted former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai's lawyers battled at the Supreme Court on Wednesday as the Lofa County Senator-elect tried to overturn a prohibition that hangs over his certification.

The arguments before the full bench of the Supreme Court surround his appeal against Chamber Justice Joseph Nagbe's granting of the government's request to deny him certification on the basis of his conviction in a criminal trial.

Justice Nagbe presided over two petitions filed separately by the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and the Ministry of Justice against Samukai's planned certification by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as Lofa Senator and ruled in each of the cases by blocking the certification process.

The Court is expected to consolidate the two cases and make a ruling following the parties' argument on Wednesday, 21 July 2021.

Early this month, Supreme Court Justice in Chambers Nagbe granted the Justice Ministry's request to disallow Mr. Samukai's certification by the NEC, after also granting a separate petition for a writ of prohibition filed by MPC against Samukai's certification in May this year.-Editing by Othello B. Garblah

Justice Nagbe had ordered the NEC to disallow Samukai's certification until the disability imposed on the convicted former Defense Minister is removed according to law.

Mr. Samukai and others have been told to make full settlement of US$1.147, 656m or (pay) 50 percent within the period of six months of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) private pension saving funds that were said to have been misapplied during his tenure at the Ministry of Defense.

The government said Samukai is a judicially disenfranchised citizen and a convicted felon, therefore he should not be certificated as Senator.

-Editing by Othello B. GarblahAnd the MPC of Businessman Simeon Freeman in a separate petition in March this year contended that Samukai had already been convicted by both a circuit court and the Supreme Court following his trial for misapplying private pension saving funds owned by soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during his term as Defense Minister in former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf's administration.

The MPC asked the Justice - in - Chambers Nagbe to disallow Samukai's certification. In a ruling on 8 February 2021, Liberia's Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling but with modification, convicting ex-President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf's longest-serving Defense Minister, now Lofa County Senator-elect Mr. Samukai, and two other former defense officials for the unauthorized spending of soldiers' pension money.

In that ruling, the Supreme Court sentenced former Minister J. Brownie Samukai, his deputy Joseph P. Johnson and Mr. James Nyumah Dorkor to serve a term of two years each in a common jail.

However, the Supreme Court ruled in the corruption case that the sentences shall be suspended provided that the convicted officials shall restitute the full amount of US$1.147, 656m or (p-Editing by Othello B. Garblahay) 50 percent within the period of six months, and following that, make appropriate arrangement to pay the remaining percentage in one calendar year.

Should the defendants fail on these mandates, the Supreme Court said they shall be incarcerated in common jail and remain there until the full amount is paid. In its judgment, the Supreme Court said every withdrawal from the Armed Forces of Liberia Pension Account should have been by authorization or consent of the AFL soldiers.

The Court, therefore, said the unrelated expenses of US$1.147, 656m on the instruction of former President Sirleaf was without the pale of the law, and the appellants (defendants) are held personally liable for the unauthorized expenditure on the account.

Prior to the Supreme Court's ruling in the criminal case, Mr. Samukai after initially being given a suspended sentence by the Criminal Court "C" won the December 2020 Senatorial election in Lofa County, but had not been seated yet in the Senate due to challenges brought against the election results by his rival.

He won the election-related case at the Supreme Court and the NEC was ordered to certify him before the MPC filed the petition to restrain the commission from the certification process on the basis of Samukai's conviction in the criminal case.

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