MONROVIA, Montserrado – Seven Ivorian nationals currently in pre-trial detention at the Monrovia Central Prison have threatened to commit suicide over their long incarceration by the government.
The detainees include Komande Varkey, Nemlin Antiubue, Junior Ourogbo, Budison Lulie, Edward Toure, Djikezon Martin, and Niolue Oliver. They were first arrested in August 2012 and the government attempted to extradite them to their home country.
The men were arrested in Grand Gedeh after escaping their country over allegation of committing heinous crimes, such as rape, murder, theft of property, and arson. The defendants have since denied the allegations.
During a previous trial at the Monrovia City Court, Judge Kennedy Peabody, who presided over the court at the time, ruled and granted a request from the Ivorian government to extradite the defendants to their country to face trial there.
The request was based on an Extradition Treaty signed by both the governments of Liberia and the Ivory Coast between August 24, 1972, and January 18, 1973.
However, Amara Sheriff, the defendants’ lawyer, appealed to Criminal Court A and moved to dismiss the case. Judge Roosevelt Willie ruled on June 24 to release the defendants, as the Ivorian government had refused to take custody of them within the statutory period under the law.
The Ivorian nationals were then turned over to the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, for repatriation to Côte d’Ivoire. Two weeks later, government lawyers filed another motion requesting the court rescind its previous decision to release the defendants, citing national interest and security as justifications.
Judge Willie granted the motion last Tuesday and ordered the rearrest and incarceration of the defendants.
“Meanwhile, this court having rescinded its ruling to release the appellants hereby sound this caveat to the Liberian government to work out the process as provided for by law to have this matter concluded; otherwise, this court will be constrained during the August Term of Court to Sua Sponte and assign the Writ of Habeas Corpus for the Government of Liberia to bring forth the defendants before court to show cause for their continued incarceration,” the judge ruled.
While they were being retaken to the Monrovia Central Prison, the seven Ivorian nationals were seen in tears and accused the Liberian government of denying them justice for a long time.
One of them, Nemlin Antiubue, specifically accused former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Solicitor General Daku Mulbah of masterminding their “illegal detention.”
He said the accusations levied against them by their government is untrue. According to him, they had only civilly criticized their government for taking power through a military means.
“We were in the refugee camp in Grand Gedeh when some guys came to us saying the government of Liberia, through the former Solicitor General Daku Mulbah, wanted to ask us some questions of interest. When we arrived in Monrovia, we were asked several questions including about the Ivory Coast. We were later told that the war is over so we should go back to our country but we refused,” he said.
“We didn’t refuse because we wanted to prove something else or we don’t want to go back but my sister [and] the first 48 of our friends that went to Ivory Coast died. Only three survived. So, we are afraid to go back – that’s why we refused to go back.”
The defendants are currently detained at the Monrovia Central Prison awaiting a new trial.
Featured photo by Miama Morine Pewee