Sierra Leone Telegraph Court Reporter: 12 June 2020:
Sierra Leone’s former minister of social welfare in the Koroma-led APC government – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, today appeared at the Magistrate court in Freetown after spending almost six weeks in detention.
She was arrested on the 1st of May 2020, by heavily armed police who broke into her house, after allegations by the government that she had published comments on social media about the president’s frequent trips abroad, as well the appalling conditions in which the former head of the military – Retired Major Palo Conteh is being kept in prison.
According to the Sierra Leone Telegraph’s Court Reporter, Dr Blyden, who is charged with ten counts of seditious libel and subversion, appeared in court this morning where she questioned the veracity and legality of some of the charges filed by the Attorney General against her.
Addressing the court through the magistrate, Dr Blyden exposed the legal fitness of the Honourable Attorney General when Blyden asked for Count 7 of the libel charges as filed by the Attorney General to be thrown out, as it is deemed to be legally defective. (Photo: Former social welfare minister – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden).
The charge sheet signed by the Attorney General and presented in court, states that evidence shows Dr Blyden is to be charged with libel in pursuant to Section 34 of the Public Order Act of 1965.
But the same Section 34 says that nobody can be charged for libel under Section 33, if the publication is more than six months old.
Yet, according to the Attorney General, the evidence put forward by her in support of her Count 7 charge against Dr Blyden under Section 33 was a publication allegedly made 21 months ago in October 2018.
“How can this be justice,” a senior Judge speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, commented today.
According to the Sierra Leone Telegraph Court Correspondent, Dr Blyden today asked the Court to throw the matter out as far as Count 7 is concerned.
At this juncture in the proceedings, the Magistrate decided to adjourn the case for ruling on Wednesday, 17th June 2020.
Despite the magistrate promising at the last sitting to consider Dr Blyden’s bail request today, she instead sent Dr Blyden back to Prison for another five days.
The case continues.