Jailed Men Get Ten More Years
December 26, 2000
Liberia's Supreme Court has added 10 years to another 10-year sentence of opposition politicians and others found guilty for overthrowing the government of President Charles Taylor, a warlord who rose to power after a seven-year war that left 250,000 dead and ruined the country, according to reports from Monrovia.
The men, mostly members of slain President Samuel Doe's Krahn tribe, were found guilty of plotting to overthrow President Taylor in 1998. Over 600 Krahns were reportedly killed when government security forces, led by the President's son, invaded heavily populated Krahn areas in Monrovia shooting down many fleeing civilians. The US State Deprtment reported that about 18,000 Krahns fled the city for refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
Following the clampdown, eleven Krahn officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia were arrested, tortured and executed, according to the US State Department, although President Taylor claimed they were shot while attempting to flee.
But the Supreme Court, regarded as a rubber stamp institution at the whims of the President, said the punishment given the men by the lower court did not commensurate with their crime and therefore additional years were added despite their lawyers' plea.
"We were taught in law school that the Supreme Court's main responsibility was to look at the legal issues in a case, sent to the lower court if need be, or uphold judgment... But again this is the new Liberia", said a lawyer in an interview from Monrovia.
There is a wide spread opinion that the men are held on the basis of their ethnicity. During the trial, a video recording was shown repeatedly on President Taylor's private television showing the execution of 13 Americo-Liberian (descendents of freed slaves) politicians in 1980 as a reminder that the trial was one of vengeance. But President Taylor was one of the principal architects of the 1980 coup and ended up as a key tactician in the military junta he later overthrew. He escaped following allegations against him for stealing close to a million US dollars. Arrested in the US to be extradited, he escaped from prison and launched a war that made him president.
"If only the Supreme Court could take similar interests in the execution of (opposition politician Samuel Dokie), Madam Nowah Flomoh (a women's pro-democracy activist) and several others, then we will begin to respect its judgments. But what we see is the legalization of a vicious witch-hunt with the potential of more chaos. We need reconciliation to right the wrongs that continue to afflict this country", said a Methodist priest.