The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) has questioned recent decision believed to have come from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to dismiss a magistrate in Maryland County.
JPC Regional Coordinator for the Diocese of Cape Palmas, Southeastern Region, Thomas Mawolo said the President’s decision followed the recent release of seven Liberian mercenaries who were arrested along with 89 Ivorians by the joint state security of Maryland on suspension of being Liberian mercenaries who were fighting in the Ivorian crisis.
Mr. Mawolo said while it is true that magistrates and other public officials work at the will and pleasure of the President, it was equally important that allegations of misconduct by these officials, especially in the various counties, be thoroughly investigated by independent body before decisions are taken.
He said out of the 96 suspected mercenaries arrested on April 1, seven Liberians were sent to court where they spent 12 days in detention without trial. The case was dismissed by the magistrate for lack of proper evidence.
The JPC Coordinator said the magistrate released the seven Liberians on grounds that the prosecution could not convincingly prove its allegation against the defendants.
Associate Magistrate Jocquette Dioh was reportedly ordered dismissed early this month through a communication from President Sirleaf for releasing the Liberians.
Copies of the President’s communication were allegedly served the offices of the Superintendent, County Attorney and other institutions in the county.
When contacted, the offices of Maryland Superintendent and County Attorney acknowledged the dismissal of the Associate Magistrate, but denied knowledge of the President’s dismissal letter of the magistrate.
A letter marked, EJS/MOS/310/2011, dated May 5, 2011, bearing the signature believed to be that of President Sirleaf, indicated that the dismissal of Associate Magistrate Dioh was based on recommendation from the Minister of Justice for the magistrate’s unauthorized release of seven Liberians.
“…Your dismissal is based upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice following your unauthorized action to release seven Liberians who had been charged with mercenarism after their return to Liberia from participation in the conflict in La Cote d’Ivoire,” the second paragraph of the letter stated, although the defendants were not convicted of the crime in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Even though the Superintendent’s office denied knowledge of the letter, but the concluding paragraph of the letter instructed the dismissed magistrate to turn over all properties of the Government of Liberia in his possession to Superintendent J. Gbleh-bo Brown. Writes, Sam Zota, Jr.