Sunday August 9, 2015 - The longest court martial in
Sierra Leone's history finally ends. All thirteen
accused set free as prosecution fails, miserably, to buttress charges.
Accusations that it was just another act by the smoke and
mirrors rat of a President at State House.
...and finally the truth
is out. All thirteen soldiers arrested and held for more
than two years have been declared free by a Court
Martial sitting in the capital Freetown. This is a part
of the story as reported when the saga started -
"A Sierra Leone military court has charged a captain and 13 soldiers with mutiny
and denied them bail, a judge said.
The charge was coming eight months after they were arrested for planning a
protest against the president.
The men, who all pleaded not guilty, were arrested last August in the northern
town of Makeni for planning a protest during a visit by President Ernest Bai
Koroma to his hometown.
The Judge, Otto During, said the soldiers had intended to kidnap the president
and murder the defence minister during the visit, which was later cancelled.
He said the account has not been independently verified and details of the event
leading to the soldiers’ arrests were not addressed in court on Monday.
He added that “bail was refused the suspects in the interest of public safety
and the safety of the accused persons themselves.
“Also, there is the risk of flight on the part of the suspects.”
If found guilty, the men could face a range of punishments from demotion in rank
to death by firing squad."
This, in a nutshell
shows just how serious the entire matter was with the
accused soldiers as confused as the public had been over
the whole incident. This was the classical APC tactics
repeated so many times during the Stevens and Momoh
regimes that Sierra Leoneans old enough to read between
the lines were watching with keen interest as to what
will eventually emerge out of the so-called court
martial that had seen serving soldiers deprived of their
freedom and way of life, subjected to all manner of
intimidation and deprivation as the rogue government
tried to deflect public attention from its dismal and
human rights-abusing practices. A lack of respect
for the constitution also thrown in for good measure.
there was a time when watchers were waiting for the
"Executive President" to order the Court Martial to find
all of the men guilty and sentenced to death but the
eyes of the international community and concerned Sierra
Leoneans including the Sierra Leone Human Rights
Commission were focused on every move.
The Sierra Leone
Concord Times newspaper put it succinctly in a headline
- "Bogus mutiny claims" with the opening line - "Freed
at last...after spending almost two years in detention.
Here's a section of the newspaper's account.
"They were arrested in August 2013, incarcerated at the Pademba Road Male
Correctional Centre for over 8 months without being charged to court.
They were subsequently charged with 8 counts, ranging from conspiracy to commit
mutiny, mutiny and failure to suppress mutiny.
However, Yesterday (5 August), 13 of the alleged mutineers finally breathed an
air of freedom after they were cleared on all the charges.
Addressing the court yesterday, Judge Advocate Otto During noted that in a
criminal matter of such magnitude, the prosecution must prove its case beyond
all reasonable doubt.
“This is fundamental principle in the practice of law,” he said.
On count one, which is conspiracy to commit mutiny, he said: “Conspiracy is
difficult to prove because it is done secretly. It also needs a corroborative
evidence for it to be proven. The conspirators should have specific intention
and the law requires that they should execute the act.”
He noted that that all the information about a secret meeting at the Saint
Andrews Primary School at Teko Barracks was mere rumour.
Judge Advocate During continued that all the accused persons, with the exception
of the 14th raised alibis and that investigators failed to cross check them,
hence they stand.
He said there was corroborative evidence that there was no breakage at the arms
store in Teko Barracks in Makeni.
On count 2, which is mutiny, the judge advocate said there was no evidence in
court that all the accused persons engaged in any activities that amounted to
He said mutiny involves two or more persons subjected to law, engage in some
violent activities and that it must be done openly.
He emphasised there was no evidence of mutiny in court and that there was no
violent activities in which the accused, either with or without the use arms,
subdued their commanders and put them under arrest.
He noted that counts 3 to 6, which relates to failure to suppress mutiny, was
not duplicitous and that they require knowledge of the accused persons to do so.
He dismissed counts 7 and 8 which is incitement to mutiny, noting that they are
bad in law as one cannot incite somebody to commit mutiny alone.
Reading the verdict in court, President of the Court Martial Board, Lieutenant
Colonel Bobley Jusu cleared the 13 accused persons on all the charges, while the
Judge Advocate acquitted and discharged them.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law
(CARL), Ibrahim Tommy last night congratulated the court for administering
justice to the 14 military personnel [one of the soldiers was acquitted and
discharged after the preliminary investigation].
CARL championed the campaign to urge the government to release the men or bring
them to court, after they were initially held for eight months without trial and
Tommy told Concord Times that: “It is victory for justice, and should serve as a
critical step forward in bringing closure to the sad chapter in the lives of
those men. We will continue to condemn and seek compensation for the human
rights violations that they suffered in the course of the process, particularly
for illegally detaining them for eight months without arraigning them.”
The Sierra Leone Human
Rights Commission had also been watching the drama
unfold. It intervened and requested the release of other
soldiers who had been arrested but not charged - and
were still held at the Pademba Road prison. The
news outlet had this headline - "Four Soldiers freed from Mutiny detention"
As part of its strategic engagement with stakeholders, the Human Rights
Commission of Sierra Leone on Thursday April 24 facilitated the release of the
remaining four detained soldiers held at Pademba road prison.
The facilitation came about after the Commission engaged the Attorney-General
and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo on various human rights issues ranging
from prison overcrowding, health of prisoners,
and the remaining four soldiers not charged before the court martial.
The Commission believed that continued detention of the four soldiers without
trial was a violation of their rights and therefore sought their release, if
they were not going to be charged.
The Attorney-General who said he was unaware that the four were not charged,
sought clarification from the Chief of Defence Staff and to make necessary steps
for their release if they were not going to be charged.
Preparations were underway between the AG’s office and the Defence Ministry to
release the soldiers from custody.
On November 15th, 2013, the Human Rights Commission visited the Pademba Road
Prison to do a check list inventory of the actual situation that obtained there.
The Commission noted that 18 military officers were being held at the prison
without charges brought against them for allegedly committing an offence.
The military officers were detained by the state since August 2013, without
This action by the government clearly violates section 23. (1) of the
1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone Which states that “Whenever any person is
charged with a criminal offence, he shall unless the charge is withdrawn, be
afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent Court’. The
Commission strongly believes that this provision of the 1991 Constitution was
never adhered to.
The Commission wrote a letter to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on
February 6th 2014 highlighting the continued detention of the 18 soldiers
without trial since August, 2013. It was also stated in that letter that the
Commission observed that the military officers were denied visits and also they
cannot access their bank accounts."
It should be recalled
that throughout the deprivation visited upon the
soldiers, the Court Martial never mentioned the word
"treason" and it is not lost on many who know the
tactics of the APC to eliminate political opponents that
they tried to but were unsuccessful in getting false
witnesses to link the soldiers with opposition MPs and
other civilians they considered a thorn in their side.
Their chief target would have been Rtd Brigadier Maada
Bio, John Benjamin of the SLPP and others they had long
wanted to charge with treason ever since that attack on
the SLPP headquarters in Freetown when at a meeting of
the APC inner circle one of them cried out - "This is
not the APC I know. These people should be charged with
attempts to overthrow the government..." The then
Information minister I B Kargbo was among those at the
meeting. The first move
was to charge 22 SLPP victims to court. Oh yes - the
victims were charged. This did not work and the matter
was thrown out as many in the capital knew what had
happened and were waiting for the courts to twist things
in favour of the APC.
We had in earlier
postings about the APC tactics of manipulating the
Judiciary to meet its political ends - one of them
implicating a sitting Vice President, one Francis
Mischeck Minah who was eventually hanged together with
the man who implicated him - one Gabriel Mohamed
Tennyson Kaikai, head of the New England police post at
the time after he was demoted and sent to that island
post by then Inspector-General of Police, one James
In this case, try as
they might - they were unable to stick any mud on the
soldiers nor indeed on any political adversary. Kindly
read this account as reported from the lips of the wife
of one of the accused as found on the
pages of Concord
"Witness Memunatu Mansaray, spouse of the 8th accused, led in evidence by counsel
Ishmael Philip Mammy, told the court that she had stayed with her husband at the
Teko Barracks in Makeni for over four years, and recalled that on 16th August,
2013 her husband, dressed in full military uniform, left home to go to the
brigade headquarters after a fire alarm was raised.
She testified that the accused would always be at home with the family when not
on duty, as well as assist her with domestic chores, adding that the accused had
never left home without her consent or sneaked out at night.
“He never slept out when not on duty and he never sneaked out at night without
my knowledge because I always lie in front and whenever he wanted to go outside
to attend to nature, I would know and accompany him,” she told the court. “I am
charged with the responsibility to lock the door and there had never been a
situation where I had forgotten to do so at night.”
She also recalled the month of July 2013 when they both travelled to Mattru Jong
while her husband was on annual leave and returned to Makeni on the expiration
of the leave.
The witness admitted knowing Saint Andrews School in Makeni, but noted she had
no knowledge that her husband attended secret meetings at the school to take up
arms against military superiors and the government of Sierra Leone. She further
noted that she was unaware her husband attended secret meetings anywhere and had
never seen him incite any of his co-accused.
She confirmed the conflict that had existed between the 1st accused, Private
Momoh Kargbo, and her husband, but could not remember details of the conflict.
She further admitted knowledge of a charcoal transaction between the 12th
prosecution witness, Memunatu Taqi Kamara, and the 8th accused, adding that
Memunatu intimated her about the outcome of the transaction and threatened to do
all she could to ensure the accused was dismissed from the military.
While being cross-examined by State Prosecutor Vincent Sowa, the witness noted
that her husband so much loved his job that he had never been absent without
official leave (AWOL), locked up in a guardroom or charged for not performing
his military duties.
That's a woman in
defence of her man whose life was on the line saying it
as plainly as she could, never mind the overtures made
to her and others to implicate them in a so-called
secret meeting in Makeni!!!
In the past, this was the
classic APC tactics and if they discovered that the
accuser knew too much and likely to spill the beans
after the execution of those they wanted murdered using
the judicial process, would also include the witnesses
on death row. Dead men, they say tell
We now await
developments on the remedial action including
compensation for the victims of this state-sponsored
outrage. We salute the defence team of the soldiers who
refused to be intimidated or coerced but stood their
ground when the state prosecutors tried to browbeat them
We also salute all the
Civil Society groups including
CARL and the Human
Rights Commission of Sierra Leone for standing up for
the rights of all Sierra Leoneans - this time the rights
of the soldiers and members of their family.