The Supreme Court of Liberia has issued a Writ of Summons for Contempt on the Attorney General, Christiana Tah for releasing Frontpage Africa Newspaper Publisher, Rodney Sieh.
In the communication from the high court which sits in its October Term commencing from today following a formal court opening ceremony, the Francis S. Korkpor-Bench commanded the marshal of the Supreme Court to invite Justice Minister Tah on Wednesday, October 16 at 9: 00 a.m. to show cause why she should not be held in contempt.
The final arbiter for justice in the land described the release of Mr. Sieh who had been in detention for over one month and two weeks as a disregard of the Supreme Court’s order even though his rights to seek medical treatment from time to time while in prison whenever necessary was not relinquished. Frontpage Managing Editor, Sieh was released from the Monrovia Central Prison under the Liberia Code of Law Revise clause of the Criminal Procedural Law Chapter 34 Section 34.20 which states that for Compassionate Leave, “ the Attorney General shall formulate rules or regulations governing compassionate leave from institutions and in accordance with such rules and regulations, may grant any prisoner to leave his institution for short periods of time, either by himself or in the custody of an officer, to visit a close relative who is seriously ill, to attend the funeral of a close relative, to return to his home during what appears to be his own illness or to return home for compelling reasons which strongly appeal to compassion.”
However, Mr. Sieh was jailed on the orders of the Supreme Court for his failure to exhaust an appeal process entered by his legal counsels on his behalf but represented by his legal counsels Beyan D. Howard and Fonati Koffa, they requested the Minister of Justice, Christiana Tah, to have him released.
According to Rodney’s legal counsels, the request was made to allow him remain at home under detention to seek medical attention.
Mr. Sieh was taken to court by former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe on a libel suit for some US$1.5 million damages to his person and following a guilty judgment, Rodney persuaded his legal representatives to take an appeal at the Supreme Court but later reneged on following the process, a move the Korkpor Bench considered as a gross insubordination to it and ordered him incarcerated.
Rodney had been in jail for 47 days when his lawyers wrote the Attorney General to grant him compassionate leave as per the statute, a request she honored with a period of 30 days. As many persons cleverly tried to make the issue appear as a political gimmick, a former Solicitor General Tiawon Gongloe who volunteered to serve as legal counsel for any journalist whose rights have or will be trampled upon clarified that Mr. Sieh did not follow the law.
He said Mr. Sieh’s case was an opportunity for the Judiciary to repeal some of the undemocratic media laws currently on its books but by forfeiting his appeal, he lost the opportunity and that even the ECOWAS Court cannot hear his case therefore he had to wait for another opportunity of such nature.
Rodney could have been freed from returning to prison if negotiations were consummated with Mr. Toe’s terms and conditions but with the side talks and comments from the public now that he is on compassionate leave, the matter seems to be given a public attention to which apparently the Supreme Court might want to set the records straight.