Sierra Leone opposition politician Alie Kabba denied bail and sent to prison
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 December 2015
Alie Kabba was arrested in his home in Freetown last night and taken to Pademba Road prison, where he was locked up overnight before appearing at the magistrate court in Freetown today.
But after almost seven hours in court answering to the charge of bigamy filed by his divorced wife – government minister Diana Konomanyi, Ali Kabba has today been denied bail and whisked off to the notorious Pademba Road prison in Freetown, where he will spend the next few days.
Magistrate Seray Wurie refused bail, agreeing with the prosecuting lawyer that Kabba poses a flight risk.
But why should Alie Kabba be judged a flight risk? He has much to lose by running away from justice, after declaring his intention to run for the presidency in 2017. Alie is also one of the most likely candidates to win the opposition SLPP presidential candidacy election next year.
The case has been adjourned until the New Year. In the meantime, Alie has been sent to jail.
What seems like a simple case, is now being drawn out by the authorities in Freetown to inflict maximum politically motivated punishment for Alie Kabba’s open and brave criticism of the government’s record in office.
The court room was fully attended by supporters of the politician, including Muslim groups from across Freetown, who believe that an injustice is being committed against Kabba.
You can listen (below) to the recording of the radio interview that appears to have got Kabba into hot waters with the Koroma government.
When Kabba was arrested last Wednesday, he was granted bail, the conditions of which included a gagging order and surrendering of his travel documents.
Despite complying with the draconian bail conditions set last week, Alie Kabba has today been refused bail and will spend the New Year behind bars in violation of his human rights.
But in Sierra Leone, anyone criticising the Koroma government is deemed guilty if arrested under any trumped up charge, until he can prove himself innocent.
A global petition has been signed by hundreds of people across the world demanding the immediate release of Alie Kabba.
Yesterday, in pre-empting today’s court decision, Ansumana Vandi – the organiser of the online petition, released this statement:
You may recall that Dr. Alie Kabba, a candidate for President of Sierra Leone in the upcoming 2017 elections, was arrested last Wednesday by President Koroma and his APC government of Sierra Leone for being critical of the government’s human rights record and rampant corruption.
As a result of our initial outrage and pressure on President Koroma and his APC government, Dr. Kabba was released Thursday under the most stringent bail conditions known in the long history of APC suppression of dissent in Sierra Leone.
Dr. Kabba’s travel documents have been seized and he is now under a gag order not to hold any press conferences, and to refrain from saying anything critical of President Koroma and his APC government. It is important to note that Chapter 3 Article 15b of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone guarantees “freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association.”
It is therefore evident that President Koroma and his APC government are violating not only Dr. Kabba’s constitutional rights to free speech, but the Constitution of Sierra Leone itself.
This infringement on the basic constitutional rights of the people was the primary reason for multiple military coups and the subsequent breakdown of law and order that culminated into 10 years of a bloody civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans and left tens of thousands more, including babies, amputated.
It was only through the sacrifices of the international community led by ECOWAS (the West African Economic Community), the European Union, the United States and UN that the war was brought to a stop. The UN deployed over 15 thousand troops to keep the peace at an enormous cost largely financed by US taxpayers.
UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone came from all over the world without whose sacrifices peace would have been impossible. After 15 years of keeping the peace in Sierra Leone the UN folded its operations in 2005 and closed the mission with a success.
In 2007 President Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC party took power from outgoing President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP. In 2012 President Koroma won a second election for his final term.
Now, as the country prepares for another presidential election in 2017 Mr. Koroma’s APC party are seeking to amend the constitution to extend his term as it was done in Burundi, a situation that has left hundreds of people dead in the war-ravaged country.
We are therefore calling on the international community, particularly the United States, to bear pressure on President Koroma and his APC government to uphold the rule of law and allow political opponents to travel across the country freely and campaign without intimidation.
As the beneficiary of a democratic process, it is the moral and legal responsibility of President Koroma and his APC government to respect the rule of law and ensure a smooth transfer of power to the next democratically elected President of Sierra Leone.
The international community should act now to prevent a return to the excesses that necessitated the civil war that killed so many, and for which so many countries sacrificed so much with life and and their taxpayers’ money.
Please continue to support this petition until Dr. Alie Kabba is free without any unlawful condition, and until all political opponents of Present Koroma are free to campaign without restrictions and intimidation.
Your support is an indication that together we reject tyranny and advocate for democracy and the rule of law as the ultimate vehicles for the expression of human freedom and development. (End of statement).
The outspoken opposition politician Alie Kabba, who was arrested a week ago by the Sierra Leone police, appeared in court today to answer charges of alleged bigamy by his divorced wife – local government minister Diana Konomanyi (Photo: Diana and president Koroma).
The couple got married in Freetown in 2013 and after two years, Diana filed for divorce which was granted by the courts.
But now she is suing the opposition presidential aspirant Kabba for bigamy.
Diana is claiming that Alie had willfully falsified their marriage certificate when they got married in 2013, whilst knowing that he was still married to his first wife.
Alie has on various occasions denied this allegation, and said his arrest was politically motivated and the result of his constant criticism of the government’s failed policies and corruption in high places.
Supporters of Alie Kabba say that he is a prisoner of conscience, held captive by the Koroma government, just as the former dictator Siaka Stevens did to Kabba in the 1980s – arrested for student protest.
Both Alie Kabba and Diana were in court today to put their evidence forward to a Judge, who will decide where the truth about the allegation of bigamy lies.
But no matter the outcome of this case, it will be very difficult for the government and minister Konomanyi (Photo) in particular, to convince the majority of Sierra Leoneans who live in a culturally acceptable polygamous society, that this trial is not politically motivated.
A few years ago, popular journalist Sylvia Blyden of the Awareness Times published a story about president Koroma’s polygamous lifestyle, and she was arrested and charged to court under the Public Order Act.
But after weeks of drama in court, the then attorney general Serry Kamal decided to nolle prosequi – all charges were dropped and Blyden was acquitted.
Bigamy, according to the laws of Sierra Leone carries a sentence of ten years in jail. Friends and supporters of Alie Kabba who is a Muslim and is entitled to marry up to four wives, say he is innocent.
Is this case about justice, or is it about politics?
The court must decide, in what should be a straight forward open and shut case, assuming that politics does not get in the way of good adjudication by the court.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has obtained a recording of the radio interview which supporters say got Alie Kabba into trouble with the Koroma government.
Take a listen and judge for yourself: we apologise for the poor sound of the recording