By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie
The Publisher and Managing Editor of FrontPage Africa newspaper, Rodney Sieh, who was singled out on Friday, November 8, 2013 and taken back to prison following the expiration of a 30-day compassionate leave and house arrest, has been unconditionally released from prison. Minutes after his release at the Monrovia Central Prison on Friday, Journalist Rodney Sieh told reporters that he has been finally released and expressed hope that it would be the last time of his release.
“I just want to say thanks to the media, the Liberian Council of Churches, the National Muslim Council of Liberia, his lawyers, Dr. Amos Sawyer and others who were part of the team. I promise, we will never stop doing our work,” Sieh said in an interview with reporters.
One of his lawyers, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods, told reporters who went to the prison compound that Rodney has been finally released based on negotiations with his accuser, former Agriculture Minister, Chris Toe.
Atty. Woods lauded all including the Chair of the Governance Commission Dr. Amos Sawyer, Sheik Kafumba Konneh, Rev. Kortu Brown and the media for their intervention in the case against his client Sieh.
Sieh was recently granted a 30-day temporary release from prison by the Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr. Christiana Tah.
He was jailed on August 21, 2013 after failing to pay a US $1.6 million libel judgment to former Agriculture Minister, J. Chris Toe.
Former Public Works Minister, Samuel Kofi Woods, who is one of Sieh’s lawyers, said the 30-day temporary release was consistent with the Liberian law.
“This is what is referred to as compassionate leave. It is provided for under Section 34.20 of our criminal procedure law under which the Attorney General, who is the Minister of Justice, could exercise an authority to grant leave to a prisoner for certain reasons,” he said.
Woods said the lawyers requested the temporary release due to Sieh’s deteriorating health condition.
“We did indicate that there has been persistent illness of Rodney Sieh, and also we have been engaged in a particular dialogue and substantial progress has been made. And, therefore, it would be a good thing to allow Rodney out while we continue this process,” Woods said.
Since his imprisonment, Sieh has been unhealthy and was admitted at the John F. Kennedy Hospital late August suffering from an undisclosed illness.
Sieh has ruled out offering any apology to Mr. Toe. Last month, his lawyers filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of his imprisonment under Section 44.71 of the Liberian Civil Procedure Law and called for his immediate release.
The lawyers argued that Sieh’s imprisonment violated various provisions of the constitution, including the prohibition against debt bondage in Article 12, the Equal Protection Clause of Article 11, the due process clause of Article 20, and the directive against excessive punishment in Article 2.
So far, there has been no comment from Dr. Chris Toe on the release of Journalist Sieh but credible source told the INQUIRER that Dr. Toe has completely dropped the case against Rodney Sieh.