Friday, July 19, 2024

Sierra Leone: Key Highlights of Former President Ernest Koroma’s Treason Case

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By: Amara Thoronka

On Wednesday, January 3, 2024, at a magistrate court in the capital Freetown, before Magistrate Santigie Bangura, Sierra Leone’s former president, Ernest Bai Koroma, was formally charged with treason, misprision of treason, and two counts of harboring. The erstwhile head of state is alleged to have been involved in overthrowing the government of his successor, President Julius Maada Bio, on November 26, 2023. The Magistrate Court on Wednesday commenced preliminary investigations into the four-count charge against the former president.

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The defense team of the former president, led by Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, Esq., submitted to the Magistrate Court an order of the High Court given by Justice Samuel Taylor granting bail to the accused.

The application for bail was made before the High Court pursuant to section 79 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965, and in accordance with the Bail Regulation of 2018 for and on behalf of the former president by Lawyer A. S. Sesay, witnessed by Lawyer A. V. Koroma from the Prosecution.

In granting the bail application, Justice Taylor ordered that a maximum of 10 people, including Ernest Koroma’s wife, children, lawyers, and members of his political party, are allowed to live at his residence.

The judge also ordered that the former president should not leave his premises without the express permission of the Inspector General of Police, adding that only the National Chairman and the Deputy of his political party [All People’s Congress party] are allowed to visit him.

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Added to the bail conditions, Justice Taylor ordered the former president to provide two sureties who are senior citizens resident in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, and that all visits to his residence should be permitted by the Inspector General of Police.

Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, the lead lawyer of the former president, said charges against Koroma are “trumped-up charges”.

Lawyer Kamara told BBC’s Umaru Fofana that they were “shocked and in utter disbelief” at the charges, adding that “a dangerous precedent has been set”. “A dark cloud has shadowed the skies of our country [by] dragging a former head of state who was democratically elected, on trumped-up charges under a political vendetta,” Lawyer Kamara said.

On the same development, Foreign Minister Timothy Kabba confirmed receiving a letter written by the president of the ECOWAS Commission detailing arrangements to allow for the temporary relocation of former President Ernest Bai Koroma, who now faces treason charges.

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The foreign minister said that his government did not, however, countenance the content of the said letter, saying “it is a unilateral proposition by the president of the ECOWAS Commission”. Under the terms of the letter, Koroma was to be flown to Nigeria on January 4 with all legal and administrative procedures against him dropped, keeping his full entitlement as a former President.

The formal indictment of former president Ernest Bai Koroma came just a day after the Government of Sierra Leone announced treason charges for 12 suspects linked to the failed coup, including the organizing secretary of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party. The treason case of the said 12 persons, who were earlier charged, was adjourned to January 9, 2024.

The treason case of the former president was adjourned to January 17, 2024.

It could be recalled that the Government of Sierra Leone, on November 26, 2023, reported that some unidentified persons attacked the armory at Wilberforce Military Barracks, the Central Prison, and some police stations in Freetown, leading to unrest, panic, deaths, and the release of prisoners.

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