BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – The Second Judicial Circuit Court has extended the prison sentence of the seven defendants in the Sinoe gang rape and murder case to 45 years.
The additional 20 years came in the wake of a motion of correction filed by prosecution lawyers representing the Liberian government last week.
The seven defendants, including Moses Solo, Teah Gmawlue, Sylvester Charty, Dennis P. Pyne, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Alex Karpeh, were found guilty on August 30 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, prosecutors called for life imprisonment.
The case stems from a December 12, 2018 incident where three women were stripped naked, paraded, and gang-raped in Johnny Town, Nomorpoe District, Sinoe. They were accused of witchcraft and one of the women, Willette Nyewallah, was murdered and buried secretly in a swamp.
The defendants were charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal facilitation, and criminal conspiracy, and the case was transferred to the Second Judicial Circuit Court to avoid interference from powerful members of the traditional society.
On September 12, Assistant Justice Minister Wesseh A. Wesseh argued that even though Judge Joe Barkon said he found the evidence provided by the state to be weighty and convincing, he was lenient in his sentencing.
“That movant further contends that your honor also inadvertently overlooked the fact that the defendant brutally beat and had sexual intercourse with the victims when they inserted their penises into the vagina of the victims, thus resulting to the death of the deceased Willette Nyewallah, who they buried at a secret location under extreme indifference to the values of human life,” the motion filed earlier said.
He moved for the judge to sentence the defendants “to life imprisonment as in keeping with the penal law of Liberia.”
The motion was filed and assigned for Monday, but was later reassigned for Tuesday, September 17 at the court.
On Tuesday at about 2:00 p.m., both prosecution and defense counsels argued for nearly one hour. After claims and counterclaims, the court accepted the motion of correction and added an additional 20 years, thereby giving the defendants a total of 45 years in prison.
In accepting the motion, Judge Joe Barkon said, “This act of the defendants is wicked, grossly inhumane and dehumanizing, indifferent to human value.”
“These provisions of the constitution are complemented by international protocols, treaties, and conventions on human rights to which Liberia is a signatory and has ratified and domesticated them,” he added.
In response, prosecution lawyers celebrated while the defense counsel promised to appeal to the Supreme Court during its March term of court.
Featured photo by Sampson David