Dr Sylvia Blyden refused bail by magistrate

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 May 2020:

Sierra Leone’s former minister of social welfare in the Koroma-led APC government, who was arrested by police and has been in detention for the past three weeks, appeared at the magistrate court today, where many expected her to be granted bail.

But those hopes were dashed when the presiding magistrate Hannah Bonnie, refused bail, due to what was considered as “serious crimes”.

Dr Blyden has today been charged with ten count offences, ranging from seditious libel, publication of false news, defamatory libel, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and doing an act tending to pervert the course of justice.

The case has been adjourned to next Thursday, 28th of May 2020, with little or no prospect now of Dr Blyden receiving bail.

Also appearing in court today, was a young child-rights activist – Muckson Sesay, who was arrested immediately following the detention of Dr Blyden.

And, after spending weeks behind bars without charge, today the young man was charged for publishing a picture of Dr Blyden on social media taken when she was being interveiwed at  CID, a charge he deneis. (Photo).

“The Sierra Leone government’s unrelenting pursuit of  Dr Sylvia Blyden without bail is nothing short of a full-scale assault on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  Prominent female activist, journalist & health advocate, Dr Sylvia Blyden has been held in police custody for 21 days without bail following her arbitrary arrest by armed security forces.

“Dr Sylvia Blyden was detained after calling on the government of President Julius Maada Bio to respect and protect human rights and democracy, and take more appropriate measures to tackle Covid-19.

“All eyes are now on the Sierra Leone judiciary to see if due process will apply. The burden is on the judiciary to uphold the rule of law and protect our human rights or allowed to be used and further undermine judicial independence and the rule of law,” says rights campaigners yesterday.

In another development, former defence minister – Palo Conteh. appeared at the High Court in Freetown, yesterday Friday, 21 May 2020, presided by Justice Alhaji Momoh Jah Stevens.

Alfred Palo Conteh and others have been charged for crimes relating to illegal possession of firearms and other felonious offences.

Palo Conteh is being represented by the veteran and erudite international lawyer – Dr Abdulai O. Conteh – who is also the former Chief Justice of the Belize Supreme Court; former Special Court Judge and Attorney General in the Koroma-led APC government – Joseph F. Kamara; and Barrister Wara Serry-Kamal.

Representing the State, are the Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Mrs. Priscilla Schwartz and Barrister – Adrian Fisher as lead prosecutors; Director of Public Prosecutions – Mr. Ngakui; D.J Soyie; J.K Sesay; Robin Mason; and Umaru Napoleon Koroma, –  all present in court yesterday.

Opening and submitting the case for the State, the Attorney General is said to have questioned:  “How can a trained soldier who has held several positions of security nature, above all a Barrister who knows the law of the land, carried a loaded gun to the Office of the President,  if not to use it?”

Palo Conteh, whose wife also appeared in court two days ago for unlawful possession of firearms and refused bail by magistrate, has been held in detenion for the past several months, after he was arrested for allegedly taking a gun into State House.

But during Palo Conteh’s last appearance at the magistrate court, his lawyers questioned the veracity of the charges and demanded that State prosecutors produce the video recording showing Conteh walking into State House with a gun. Prosecutors refused.

Palo Conteh’s case was adjourned until 26 May 2020.

According to court report by Milton Margai, in the case involving Isata Saccoh – the wife of Palo Conteh,  who appeared  before Magistrate Hannah Bonnie last Wednesday, 20th May 2020, it is alleged that she conspired with others to help  Palo Conteh escape from the Pademba Road Prison.

State Prosecutor – Adrian Fisher, read out three charges against Isata Saccoh, ranging from  – conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to law, to possession of a small arms and light weapon.

According to State witness – Detective Nathaniel Desmond Williams, said he took possession of all the evidence gathered from the raid carried out at the house of Isata Saccoh, as he handed the exhibits to the court.

However, the lead counsel for the accused – lawyer Wara Serry-Kamal, objected to count 1. According to court reporter – Osman Kamara of Radio 98.1, the lead counsel said the police couldn’t show which law they used and that they were deceiving the court. She asked that Count one be corrected.

She also highlighted that her client has been ‘in custody for 21 days, which goes against her human rights,’ as she requests bail on the grounds that her client is not a flight risk. “She can come to court anytime the case comes up and that she has a reliable surety,” she said.

But, Magistrate Bonnie refused bail and sent Isata Saccoh on remand until Friday 22nd May, 2020. The case continues.

11 Comments

  1. Ay bo Mr. M. SAHR NOUWAH, did you really just make a comment about flight risk? Yes, when considering bail, flight risk is something you take into account, but you also take into account, the person’s ties to society/local community. And if they ran, the govt could get them extradited. BUT and the most important things here, are that, you have chosen to ignore that these are all bogus charges trumped up by a paopa govt. The govt actually refused to make public the proof that Paolo walked in with a gun. He said he checked in his gun, the govt said he did not. Prove it! You have security cameras! Also, SB has been arrested for what she said. So we are not allowed to criticize the govt?

    And a kid, who has been an upstanding example for his country is arrested for posting an innocent picture! I am not a fan of these two, Paolo should rot in hell for stealing ebola money and God knows, Sylvia has problems, but this is wrong.Check yourself. When Mad Bio ran the first time and his paopa was in full force, his convoy was blocking the presidential convoy and he and his people were making like the raray boys they are and doing all sorts of nonsense in front of law court, I prayed and hope he never becomes president again. My worst nightmares about my country came true. We don’t need a paopa in office. You are seeing the results. Your first allegiance should be to your country and if that was the case, what’s happening now should would bother you.

    These are innocent people that should never been arrested for you to be talking about flight risk. Both our major parties are a mess and they don’t seem to consider what happens when they are out of power. SLPP took majority of parliament from APC by paopa, shot up their HQ and is now arresting APCers for no good reason. Unfortunately, APC is no better, which begs the question, after all this abuse what happens when APC is back in power. Is SLPP thinking about that, or does Mad Bio just think he will rule until death, no worries about what happens after that. Country first. This is wrong.

    • Please ART can you confirm the author of this comment. Are there two Alimamy Turay(s) on this forum? If there is only one, I am not the author of this comment.

  2. I believe you are right Mr. Stargazer, the situation is frightening. Nevertheless my hope is that there are some brave intelligent democratic people beside these 2 established parties who will stand up against this violation of democracy and human rights and not wait to the next election.

  3. This is just outright despicable and totally unacceptable! Where are the millions of APC supporters in all this?It seems to me they have all become scared sea turtles, afraid to stick their cowardly necks out, watching timidly and in fear whilst the rights of their leaders are being ruthlessly trampled upon and violated. Where are Minister Dr Blyden’s friends and close associates, here at home and abroad? What exactly are they doing to help secure her release? Is it really possible that our nation has now become a chicken hearted, spiritless, hopeless country that can now only boast of having spineless individuals, resembling petrified infants sucking at their mothers breast?

    What exactly is going on? Why is this criminal-minded President being allowed to systematically dismantle and destroy our hard-earned democracy, unabated, like a crumbling deck of cards? It seems very clear to me Mr Williams and Paolo Conteh are all on their own. Indeed, it is very true; the experience of Crucifixion on any kind of Cross must be gallantly suffered and endured alone. Lord have mercy! Everyone is quiet; even the corrupt media and international representatives in our country are treading softly. Everyone is afraid of the tiny, little-minded dictator in State House.

  4. The definition of flight risk by many commentators here is not considering power and resource. In Africa, a place like Sierra Leone, a person of the nature of those in jail now, has several risks analysis. With their resources (money, power, political affiliation and ability to stage seriously campaigns), mean they can escape through Guinea and Liberia into another country which has no treaty with Sierra Leone. That brings additional burden and cost to the government.

    Considering all of the above, one can genuinely suggest that they are a flight risk. This way, a judge making a decision not to grant bail could be considered as making an independent judgement.

  5. “ Dr Blyden has today been charged with ten count offences, ranging from seditious libel, publication of false news, defamatory libel, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and doing an act tending to pervert the course of justice.”

    It does not take a rocket scientist to quickly realize that, the current crop of SLPP extremists, in collusion with our crooked police force, are doing all clandestine moves to redeem their barbaric and tyrannical impulses, exacerbated by the deliberate targeting, and arresting of any citizens who dares speaks up against their terror machinery. After the illegal arrest and incarceration of several citizens for merely expressing opinions pertaining to the relentless effort by the regime, in stifling and annihilating any dissenting views; the crooked cops with orders from the above, have degenerated further by fabricating trumped up charges against Dr. Blyden.

    It’s all a familiar scenario to anyone who had interacted with the SLP either via traffic or someone influential ordering them to target you. At the heat of the moment, they are quick to grab an A4 paper and start fabricating the number of charges you will face, despite the overwhelming evidence that you have absolutely done nothing. And if you are one of those adamant in bribing your way out of their insanity, they will quickly go through several pages, announcing verbally to intimidate you as they approach one billion count for all the offenses you will be charged with. In Dr. Blyden’s case, with the judges taking orders from above, it appears nothing will stop these gangs of criminals to unlawfully succeed in imprisoning her in the coming months. One thing is for sure, what goes around, must come around.

  6. Hello Mr. A A Jalloh, may be 10 days ago I have had the same idea to call the police SLPP instead of SLP. But my comment was not published. A small joke. We should not underestimate the flight risk of Sylvia Blyden. Maybe her mother will send a submarine from London to Banana Island, who knows.

  7. This sort of political trials highlight how Sierra Leone has become Polarised and how our judicial system has become corrupted with party political affiliation. Today is APC politicians on trial. Next time when the shoe is on the other foot its going to be SLPP politicians. when will identity politics stop in Sierra Leone? It does our country no good in moving forward and how we tackle the real problems facing the country like how to improve the welfare of our people. Someone needs to hold the government’s feet to the fire to keep them on the check.

    Denying Dr Sylvia Blyden and others bail, after more than twenty one days in detention flies in the face of all what the justices system is about. That in itself makes a mockery of what she is charged of. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You can only deny an individual bail if they pose flight risk. Sometimes even murder suspects are granted bail. With the lockdown, where will she find the means to leave the country. Its not like she is not a recognisable person. This decision has all the hallmarks of political interference in the case rather than the judge’s discretion. Otherwise the courts have all the powers in their disposal to set the terms and conditions of her bail.

    They could take away her passport and also order her to stay at home and report to a police station on days set by the judge. Or tag her to make sure Dr Blyden obeys the rules. For the life of me I don’t think she will disobey the conditions set by the judge. She is not a law breaker but a touch bearer against law breakers. Or is it the case of the disgraceful Sierra Leone police not capable of enforcing bail conditions. They too have become so politically corrupted, it won’t come as a surprise if they change their name to the Sierra Leone Police Party – SLPP.

  8. Dr. Sylvia Blyden’s case is exposing the rottenness of the New Direction of the SLPP led government. Everybody in Sierra Leone and I’m sure members of the international community know from all indications that Sylvia Blyden is not guilty of anything. The Sierra Leone police arrested her and detained her for a week when they don’t know why they even arrested her in the first place. For days she, her lawyers and members of the public were not told why she was arrested.

    Isn’t it true that one is told right away at the time of applying the cuffs the reason(s) why they are under arrest? The SLP didn’t do this. They could only later brandish a portrait of the former president found in Sylvia’s home as one reason for her arrest. That’s absolutely the biggest folly of the century! Democracy is being slaughtered in Sierra Leone. There’s selective justice in the country today and Human Rights of citizens are being destroyed with impunity. Sad! God please stand by Dr. Sylvia Blyden for she’s being abused for no good reason.

  9. Is this some kind of a joke? I couldn’t help but to laugh when I read what the young man is being charged for. The question I have is, what can we as citizens do to put an end to all these illicit judicial prosecutions? Because irrespective of common beliefs, we are the ones that really matter regarding the scheme of things. If it wasn’t for the people of Sierra Leone this lousy despot would never have seen the light of day as president of our beloved nation.

    Furthermore, what gives this government the right to jail its citizens for simply criticizing the nation’s current state that it presides over? Are they of conviction that everything is smooth sailing? Have they taken a look at the country lately and all that bereft its ‘existence’? Someone please tell the little statue to RELAX. Just because he’s at a disadvantage – height wise, doesn’t mean that he has to put on despicable acts to show for it.

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