By C. Winnie Saywah
Criminal Court “D” has ordered separate trial for two of the 21 defendants who were charged with multiple crimes and were earlier freed on bond by the African Insurance Company. Defendants Philip Moore and Isaac Cheepo, alias Bob Marley were set free by previous presiding judges of Court “D” upon a surety from AICO but Judge Yussif Kaba said the absence of the two defendants who are jointly charged with the rest of the nineteen believed to be all residents of Grand Gedeh County will not stall the trial that has already commenced.
Judge Kaba has also informed the parties that the defendants in the dock have already been arraigned and pleaded not guilty to their indictment so to hang the trial until the remaining two defendant can appear in court is premature and improper to request at this stage of the trial since the absence of the two is voluntary.
Prosecution raised an argument that the two defendants named in the 2011 indictment should be produced before the trial continues but defense argued that it was a waste of time because the two defendants were not at large since infact it is on record that they were freed to a surety and upon request they will be brought to court.
The trial began with arguments pros and cons with the presiding judge providing clarity and ruling into accusations. At some points, the trial became bulky and full of confusion as even the audience began to grumble or jeer.
It is already still uncertain how the trial would be proceeded with as the charges range from murder, arson and armed robbery to cross border attack, theft of property and rape which might be heard in different courts.
All 19 men were charged similarly but in two separate indictments; one is dated 2011 and the other 2012. Ten persons were placed in the 2012 indictment while nine were named in the 2011 indictment; an action by the State that defense believes is an attempt to delay the trial but Judge Kaba said multiple offenses of various crimes may be charged in one indictment and tried.
Judge Kaba ordered that the two indictments be consolidated and the trial for Mercenarism be proceeded with in accordance with law. Mercenarism is a crime committed by an individual or group or association, etc with the intent of opposing by armed violence which is a violation of Chapter 11 Section 11.13 of the New Penal Code of Liberia.
Defendants Nyezee Barway, alias Joseph Dweh; Morris K. COLE, alias Edward Cloe/General Girl; Isaac Taryon; alias Wolie Taryon; Stephen Gloto alias, Rambo/ Ninja; Nemlin Tere Antione, Prince Youty, James Lee Cooper, Emmanuel Saymah, alias Trainer; Komande Mohegar Alerie, Frank Oliver Nioule, Junior Nioule, Edward O. Nioule, Julien Badisonb Toue, Moses Baryee alias Moses Sarpee, Djikizion Guei Martin, Blao Nocaise, Sam Tarley alias Bull Dog, Ophoree Diah and Alfred Bobby Jmaes, Jr. alias Bobby Sarpee all answered ‘Not Guilty’ as they swore upon the indictment shouting, “ the government lied on us; they have no proof.”
In the 2012 indictment, the men are accused of being supporters of the former Ivorian President Laurent Ggagbo who now stand charges for war crimes at The Hague while residing in the borders of Liberia.
The indictment could not confirm if all those indicted are Ivorians and other nationals but confirmed that they were supporters of the ousted government some of whom fled to the Liberian border and while residing there connived and conspired to go to the Ivory Coast to destabilize the government.
For the crime of Mercenarism which is currently being tried among the several charges levied, it is noted that to affectuate their plans, the defendants who are from various refugee camps and towns in Grand Gedeh along the Ivory Coast border recruited and caused to be recruited for mercenary activities by receiving training in the Thai Forest in Grand Gedeh operated by Co-defendant George Moore.
The indictment further accused the defendants of attacking several villages and killing several civilians, raping women/girls, burning houses and stealing money and other properties. It explained how the defendants under the training of defendant Emmanuel Saymah received money, arms and ammunitions from co-defendant Moore after which time he led twenty men including co-defendant Komande Valerie into Ivory Coast where Valerie operates a mercenary base in Touleplea.
Following the attacks in Ivory Coast, the defendants fled back to Liberia at which time the security forces were alerted and arrests were carried out at different time and diverse places while arms and ammunitions and other materials were retrieved from them.
Defendant Ophoree Diah was specially signaled in the indictment for receiving money from an Ivorian named Jackson Didier in the amount of US$100,000 for the purchase of arms and ammunitions in Singapore and Dubai for the mercenary activities and also admitted to receiving 60,000,000 CFA.
Hearing into the case is put off till Monday, June 24 at which time AICO is mandated to escort the two remaining defendants to court and prosecution is to also produce all evidences including papers and documents to the defense team.