Justice Minister, Others Plead For Mercy

Liberia’s Attorney General, Christiana Tah and lawyers representing Frontpage Managing Editor Rodney Sieh yesterday pleaded for mercy before the Supreme Court on charges of Contempt for releasing Mr. Sieh from prison.

Lawyers representing the Dean of the Supreme Court Bar, Christiana Tah have pleaded with the high court to purge the Attorney General off the charge of contempt while in seeking to bring relief to the Supreme Court promised to return Mr. Sieh to common jail.

Without arguing the issue for which the contempt should or should not lie, Cllr. Wright said the Dean of the Supreme Court Bar did not, has not, would not, should not and will not undertake any conduct to undermine the court.

Cllr. Wright who told the court that contempt charges are meted out against a lawyer when that court feels aggrieved therefore the matter was not to be made argumentative noting that Minister Tah’s conduct to release Mr. Sieh who had been jailed based upon the Supreme Court’s judgment was not intended to disrespect the Bench.

“Our action was wrong but we looked only at the specific portion that deals with medical and because our conduct caused problem for the Bench, we say we regret it and pray to be purged; we harbor no intention to disrespect the Bench and pray this Honorable Court to give us the opportunity to correct it,” the respondents craved for mercy.

He described it as “An error from the head and or the hand and not from the heart,” thereby praying that the law takes its course in the proceedings and grant them relief as the court deems fit.  In their plea, lawyers representing Cllr. Beyan Howard said their brief was submitted not with the mind of giving justification.

Cllrs. Alexander Zoe and Lavalla Supuwood told the court that this is the first time for such action to have occurred wherein such statute was requested for in a criminal proceeding and prayed that the court determines judgment and say what the law is.

“If our views were not in line with the law all we can say now is to beg for mercy. Our brief was predicated upon three issues but we subject the matter for judicial determination of the Bench,” the co-respondents pleaded.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Court whose argument began with whether or not the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over the matter for which they should slam contempt charges and to that they argued positively.

They argued that the Supreme Court had ruled in similar matters before as a way of precedence and had judicial authority citing a judicial law 12.5 and 12.6 of the Criminal Procedure Law adding that “every disobedient of any of the courts is equal to contempt.”

On the issue of contempt, the Friends of the Court represented by Cllrs. Negbalee Warner, David A.A. Jallah and Cyril Jones told the court how anyone interfering with the court’s judgment or mandate could be held for contempt.

They informed the court that since the respondents and co-respondents pleaded for mercy with one party appealing that their error was committed from the head while the apology came from the heart, it was upon the Bench to come up with a judgment into the matter.

In closing, Cllr. Jallah prayed that Mr. Sieh is not taken back to prison as a remedial to the Attorney General’s action instead the matter be resolved. The ruling was reserved as Chief Justice Francis Korkpor told the parties that initially it was in the mind of the court that Mr. Sieh is taken to prison but that in Rodney’s own words he said he would rather go to jail than to complete his appeal process adding, “We want to set precedence but not to send people to jail.”

Frontpage Managing Editor, Sieh was released for 30 days from his Central Prison detention based on Criminal Procedure Law Chapter 34 Section 30.20.1.

34.20 titled Leave from Prison Section 1 under Compassionate Leave  states that 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 to his home for compelling reasons which strongly appeal to compassion.

With the reasons stated for which Rodney’s lawyers request was granted by the Attorney General and the provision evoked by Rodney’s lawyers , the Supreme Court said there was absolutely no connection and that the law was not applicable in that instance.

The Korkpor-Bench said as a matter of fact and law, the jailing of Mr. Sieh was a judgment of the Supreme Court which cannot and should not be interfered with by anyone or party.

However, such provision of the law is applied only to criminal cases and Rodney’s case was centered on a civil matter. Rodney, represented by Cllrs. Howard and Fonati Koffa wrote a letter of request to the Minister of Justice on the release of their client.

They said besides the statute, reasons for which their request should be granted were that Mr. Sieh has not been convicted of criminal offence or is he a danger to the public; that he apologized to the court for disrespect he showed in his attitude, writings and utterances; that he has no dealings and has not written for frontpageafricaonline.com website; that his continuous confinement may likely lead to a lapse of debilitating mental illness.

They further assured Minister Tah that both parties are currently working to resolve the underlying action and that the request if honored under the terms and conditions befitting the law will allow Mr. Sieh serve his time under home confinement.

Upon receipt of the communication dated September 27, 2013, the Attorney General granted the request with instruction to the acting Superintendent of the Prison, Major Eric David that Mr. Sieh is not allowed out of the bailiwick of Liberia without the permission of the Assistant Minister for the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  Rodney is currently under police guidance as he seeks medical care at home.