Dr Sylvia Blyden’s trial adjourned

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 08 June 2020:

The seditious libel case involving Sierra Leone’s former minister of social welfare and journalist – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, was adjourned today to Friday 12 June 2020, after prosecution witness who is the lead police investigator – Detective M.K. Alieu, was cross-examined by Blyden who is representing herself in court.

The trial which was expected to commence this morning, did not start until very late in the afternoon.

During cross-examination, Dr Blyden questioned Detective M.K. Alieu as to why her property was being subjected to heavy daily police presence, which gives the false impression that she is a threat to national security, to which the detective said he does not know why.

Blyden also pleaded to the Magistrate to grant her bail, a request the magistrate may well consider at the next sitting on Friday.

She also told the magistrate that she needs access to IT resources, so as to help prepare her case, as she is representing herself in court. The magistrate said that the prison authorities should provide the necessary support.

The case was adjourned to next Friday.

Blyden was arrested on the 1st of May 2020 by heavily armed police who broke into her home, after  she criticised the president’s approach in handling the coronavirus pandemic.

She is charged on ten counts of seditious libel and what the government describes as cyber-crimes against the State, charges she strongly denies.

There are reports, Blyden is concerned about her safety and is in fear of plots to assassinate her.

Two weeks ago, Blyden was granted bail by magistrate after spending almost a month in prison without charge.

But she was immediately arrested again by police five days ago, on trumped-up allegations that she had violated court rules by discussing her case in social media which is classified as ‘sub-judice’.

What many in Sierra Leone and outside find troubling, is the ruling party’s obsession with Dr Sylvia Blyden who is perceived as a formidable opposition voice to the government’s excesses, especially with regards to poor governance and violation of human rights in the country.

Her supporters and human rights activists are calling on Amnesty International and the international community to intervene.

On Friday, 22nd May 2020, Dr Blyden was charged with seditious libel under Sections 33, 32 and 27 of the notorious Public Order Act No 46 of 1965, which successive governments of Sierra Leone have used to harass, intimidate and persecute those with whom they disagree, especially journalists.

So, what do these sections of the Public Order Act of 1965 say?

According to Section 33 (1): “Any person who (a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do, any act with a seditious intention; or (b) utters any seditious words; or (c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication; or (d) imports any seditious publication, unless he has no reason to believe it is seditious shall be guilty of an offence and liable for a first offence to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to a fine not exceeding one thousand leones or to both such imprisonment and fine, and for a subsequent offence shall be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, and every such publication shall be forfeited to the government.”

Section  32 (1) states:  “Any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear or alarm, to the public or to disturb the public peace shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding three hundred Leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months, or to both such fine and imprisonment. (2) Any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is calculated to bring into disrepute any person who holds an office under the Constitution, in the discharge of his duties shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred Leones or to imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.”

Section 27 states: “Any person who maliciously publishes any defamatory matter shall be guilty of an offence called libel and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding seven hundred leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

The government is hoping that the court will find Dr Blyden guilty as charged on all or some of the ten counts she is alleged to have committed, which have been described by her supporters and some legal experts as bogus and politically motivated.

Dr Blyden today requested her previous bail conditions to be reinstated so that she can be released from pdetention in prison where she is being kept in appalling conditions.

The case continues on Friday.

5 Comments

  1. There is a reason why even the most powerful leader in the world – the president of the USA has a lawyer, because it is a very serious profession and it takes lot of time and money to get a degree in that profession. So I will personally advise Sylvia Blyden to hire one for this serious crime against the state. Law of the land should be respected even though it sometimes sounds shocking; just like the first time I heard that the punishment for corruption in China is the death sentence or the punishment for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia is death sentence. Even in the USA, people will served up to 10 years imprisonment, but unlike most African countries where those criminals will be promoted or glorified. The charges against Sylvia Blyden, is the law of the land and no one should be above or below the law.

  2. Phew. Does Mr Eddie Finnegan really cares about my comment? However, I ignore Mr Eddie Finnegan this time around. See how he is bungling up the history of Atilla the Hun and his Chief Evildoer. Whether Mr Eddie Finnegan cares or not, the barbarity taking place in today’s Sierra Leone, is worse than the time of Atilla the Hun and his Chief Evildoer under the Barbarians in Ancient Greece. Why has Mr Eddie Finnegan gone berserk with the facts about Attila the Hun and his Chief Evildoer type reign that is taking place in Sierra Leone today? Moreover, Mr Eddie Finnegan is new to this glorious platform and needs training to cool down his temperament, when he dislikes the facts.

    Again, I will ignore Mr Eddie Finnegan until he comes up with cool head and a very constructive approach, before he gets the privilege to discuss this issue with me. Hear Mr Eddie Finnegan somewhere on planet earth, trying to give me lectures on Ancient Greece, whilst at the same time trying to ask me for information about Atilla the Hun and his Chief Evildoer. Welcome to this glorious platform Mr Eddie Finnegan and I hope you continue participating. God help Mr Eddie Finnegan help me learn the history of Ancient Greece.

  3. Frankly speaking, what is happening in Sierra Leone today is worse than what used to happen under King Atilla the Hun and his Chief Evildoer during the Barbarian times in ancient Greece. Things are getting worse. Can you imagine being under the control and rule of the Barbarians? Please read history and reply if you care. What the hell is SLAJ doing? Where is SLAJ, when one of their own is being threatened and intimidated unjustly? By the grace of GOD, one of our country’s future leaders will be released unconditionally in this matter. Our prayers are with her. God bless, help and protect Dr Sylvia Blyden. Amen and Amen.

    • Sahr Matturi, your hyperbole is ludicrous. Your history is worse than your geography. Who are you trying to impress with this rubbish? Make your points simply, man, and say what you mean. “Ancient Greece” came to an end about six centuries before Attila’s time. When you say, “Please read history and reply if you care,” I would tell you to please read history and reply if you dare. I think your problem is that you react too often to news or opinion articles on this site, and you seem to think that anger and wild comparisons are a substitute for rational argument. You really are a disaster let loose on social media. Please take a long break and do some serious reflection. We expect better of a Kono man.

  4. Billions of blue blistering binnacles in a thundering typhoon! Dr Bylden is representing herself in court – now the incompetent SLPP is in for a hard tutoring, and the worst humiliation of their pathetic lives. Madam, show no mercy, and take no prisoners; use the sledgehammer of prudence and discernment to pound some common sense into their unthinking, empty heads.

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