first_imgAfter hours of deliberations, the jury of Criminal Court ‘D’ on Tuesday, June 10, handed down a unanimous guilty verdict against 13 men charged with Mercenarism.In their unanimous guilty verdict, the jurors established that prosecution’s evidence was overwhelming to pronounce a guilty verdict against the defendants.They are expected to be sentenced to prison on June 17 by Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘D.’Minutes after the verdict was handed down, the grounds of the Temple of Justice turned into scene of mourning. People believed to be family members and sympathizers of the defendants bitterly crying.A woman believed to be a family member of one of the guilty party suddenly fainted and fell, claiming the attention of other relatives who quickly moved in with cold water to pour on her.Some of them were heard saying, “There is no justice in this country. We are going to use every available means for our people to gain their freedom.”The angry crowd almost physically attacked the jurors outside the court.The group tried to block the entrance of the courtroom; but their plan did not materialize owing to the intervention of officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and their UNMIL counterparts. The heavily armed officers quickly barricaded the entire perimeter of the Temple of Justice. The officers deployed at the Court made every effort to prevent people from entering the courtroom. That situation almost resulted into chaos but was quickly brought under control through the intervention of some lawyers and court staffers.Case Summary The men were tried under Liberia’s 1976 law against “mercenarism,” which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.They are expected to be sentenced to prison on June 17 by Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘D.’Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) The defendants were indicted in 2011 for allegedly carrying out cross border raid in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire where several people, including seven United Nations peacekeepers, were killed.In the indictment, government alleged that the defendants were trained in the Thai Forest in Grand Gedeh County, where they launched a crossed border attack into Côte d’Ivoire.Defendants denied the allegation, thereby shifting the burden of proof on the prosecution. The trial began in earnest on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, with eighteen Liberians accused of taking part in a cross-border raid in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire appearing briefly under tight security in Criminal Court ‘D’.At that hearing, the handcuffed men in the docket pleaded not guilty for the second time to the charge when it was read to them in open court by the clerk of court. The men had first appeared in February, but the case was postponed for one month after they stormed the courtroom, destroying property and behaving violently to express their dissatisfaction over the slow pace of the case.Shortly after the case was first heard, it was suspended by Judge Yussif Kaba on claims of juror bribery. The trial was then postponed to Thursday, March 13, by Judge Emery Paye.During the four-month trial, prosecution produced 11 witnesses with seven rebuttal witnesses, while the defense team paraded 13 witnesses with 3 rebuttal witnesses.On Friday, May 9, Criminal Court “D” at the Temple of Justice released five of the 18, having established the fact that of government’s 11 witnesses who had testified throughout the proceedings, none mentioned their names or linked any of them to the crime.In that ruling, Judge Emery Paye praised the prosecution team for showing “a mark of professionalism,” after lawyers for the State admitted failure to establish the connection of the five to the commission of the crime of mercenarism in that neighboring republic.Delivering the Court’s decision on the plea, Judge Emery Paye declared that “defendants Timothy Barlee, Fred Chelly, Christopher Larkpeh, Junior Gelor and Emmanuel Pewee’s, plea is hereby granted.” Two other defendants’, whose names had also not been mentioned by witnesses, were submitted for release by the defense; but Judge Paye denied their request since they had already voluntarily confessed to the crime.BackgroundIt is alleged that the men joined Ivorian fighters, who attacked villages in Côte d’Ivoire, killing civilians, destroying homes and displacing thousands between 2010 and 2011.They were also accused of being responsible for the deaths of seven Nigerian United Nations peacekeepers in the Southeastern part of that country. State prosecutors said evidence in their possession included arms and ammunition along with audio and video footage of meetings attended by the accused.The crisis in Côte d’Ivoire erupted after the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave office after losing the 2010 presidential and general elections to current leader Alassane Ouattara.Tens-of-thousands Ivorian refugees fled into Liberia, as did an unknown number of combatants.   The Liberian authorities have described the accused as “the lowest of human characteristics in volunteering to kill, destroy and commit criminal acts in exchange for adequate payment”.last_img

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