High drama at State House Freetown – Paolo Conteh accused of treason

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 March 2020:

There was high drama and heightened security alarm at State House in Freetown last week, when the former head of the country’s security and safety in the APC government – Retired Major Palo Conteh, arrived for a meeting at State House with the president, carrying a loaded pistol in his shoulder bag.

Conteh was then arrested by CID and is still being questioned by police, as many in the ruling SLPP party call for treason charges to be filed against him.

Details of what actually took place last week at State House are mixed, and opinions about where the truth lies have become polarised by party political politics.

Conteh has not denied carrying his gun into State House. Speaking to a source immediately after his arrest, he said that he always carry his licenced pistol whenever he leaves his house. And that he forgot to leave the gun at home when going for his  meeting with the president.

He also said that upon his arrival at State House, he declared to the security personnel that he was carrying a gun in his bag which he wanted to hand over to the security. He said however, that the security advised him to go upstairs to his meeting with the president with his bag containing the gun.

And, upon arrival upstairs for his meeting, he was questioned by the head of State House security, who then alerted the police for his arrest for carrying a weapon into State House.

But this account has been denied by a government spokesman – Alpha Saidu, who works in the government’s information and communications ministry.

According to Saidu, speaking in a recorded audio, the Retired Major and former minister of internal affairs and minister of defence, refused to go through security checks as he made his way to see the president with his loaded pistol.

This is what Saidu said in Krio:

As police investigations continue into this saga which many say could have threatened the peace and stability of the country had State House security opened fire at Conteh – believing that he was about to assassinate the president, there are reports that the commissioner responsible for issuing licence for small arms – Retired Colonel Sinnah,  is also at CID helping the police on their investigations.

Sinnah is reported to have issued Conteh with a licence to own a gun without following due process, such as ensuring that Conteh had a clean medical certificate, police verification certificate and also clearance from the office of national security.

Three days ago, a statement was published purported to be by the family of Paolo Conteh. This is what it says:

“We are alarmed by the Press Release dated the 20th day of March 2020 issued by the Criminal Investigation Unit relating to a Criminal Investigation against Major (Rtd) Alfred Palo Conteh, Former Minister of Defense, Former Minister of Internal Affairs, a qualified lawyer and a military man for over 40 years.

Major (Rtd) Alfred Palo Conteh was called back to national service by no less a person than His Excellency (Retired Brigadier) Dr. Julius Maada Bio. On Monday 16th March 2020 he was invited to State House to share his knowledge and experience from the Ebola response with a view to helping the Government plan for and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in the unfortunate event it is detected in Sierra Leone.  

He did not invite himself to State House, he was called by his President to serve and he did not ignore his call as COVID-19 is a national emergency, it is not a political issue. Major Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh agreed to attend that meeting and at the meeting, he gave his commitment to assist the Government, seeing this situation as his patriotic duty to help his country and to be of service in these difficult times.

Given his past experience, his lack of personal security and his very public face, Major (Rtd) Alfred Palo Conteh is known to always carry a gun with him. He has the necessary permits under the Arms and Ammunition Act of 2012 and is licensed to carry a concealed weapon for his own protection. In the face of the government failing to provide security for the Former Defense and Internal Affairs Minister as protocol demands, he secured a legal hand gun to protect himself and his family.

He was invited to a subsequent meeting at State House on Thursday 19th March and he had in his car, his bag which contained his gun and license. When he got to State House, he did not think it prudent to leave the bag with his gun in the car given the level of pedestrian traffic at State House around parked vehicles.

He decided to take his bag in with him and upon entry to State House, he walked directly to security and handed over his bag and informed them that he needed to leave his bag with them since the bag contained his personal gun and license. State House security in fact had waived him on to go on upstairs. But being diligent, he refused to take his bag upstairs and checked it in with security. He was then allowed to proceed upstairs to the meeting location.

Major Rtd Alfred Palo was in the office of the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP) with a number of other people who were also waiting for the meeting to start, approximately 45 minutes after he entered statehouse, when State House security personnel came in and asked him if he owned the bag. He indicated, in the presence of everyone present, that yes it was his bag and he had checked it in and informed security that his personal gun was in it.  

He was then told that he could not proceed to the meeting since he had to make a statement to CID personnel about the gun. The other attendants proceeded to the meeting without him. State House security then asked everyone present in the room to not speak about this incident outside of State House.

Major Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh gave a statement and he was allowed to leave State House but his gun and license were confiscated. Major Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh did make it clear in his statement given at Statehouse, and as was witnessed by those at the security desk when he arrived, that he voluntarily handed in his bag and clearly disclosed that there was a gun inside.

He had made no attempt to take the bag to the meeting and had proceeded upstairs to attend the meeting, without the bag.  Any attempt to say otherwise and to imply that he went to State House with any mal intent is an attempt to frame Major Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh for a crime he did not commit.  

The only crime that Major Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh committed is refusing to heed the warning of his friends and family who told him to stay away and not offer his assistance in this time of need, out of mistrust for this government. His only crime is daring to answer the call of his President. His desire to serve humanity and his people is why he is currently facing this crisis. Major Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh could have left his bag in the car and avoided this incident but he was concerned that it may fall into the wrong hands and felt that State House security was the best place for it.

Major Rtd Alfred Palo Conteh is not a criminal and he has not committed a crime. Any attempt to insinuate otherwise is an attempt to frame and imprison him unjustly.
 
Dated the  21st  Day in March 2020 – From the Paolo Conteh Family.” (END).

Did Palo Conteh commit an offence by taking a weapon into State House? What does the law say about taking weapons into State House? Can lapse of judgement or mistaken and wrongful adherence to the law be used as a defence in a court of law?

To claim to forget or mistakenly do what is wrong is not a defence in law. While sometimes there may be mitigating factors that made it impossible for one to obey the law at any given moment, it is for the court to weigh up the circumstances and possible motive in order to determine whether wrongdoing was intended.

Also, the question must be asked about how probable it is for an experienced and qualified soldier of sound mind and judgement to make such a mistake, taking a weapon into State House. Did his declaration of carrying a gun to State House security absolve him of wrongdoing? Is Palo Conteh guilty of committing an offence – such as treason? Only a court of law can decide. Investigations continue.

Lawyers of Conteh have today written to the country’s Head of CID, calling for their client to be treated humanly whilst in custody. This is their letter:

8 Comments

  1. First,and foremost,the definition of Treason is globally defined;Its widely supported,approved validated,and embraced by all the most highly revered,credible,institutions of Justice,and the Law. The guidelines,and rules,for processing, and prosecuting the Crime of Treason are very strict; They ensure that Caution,and unbridled restraint become guiding,shining beacons, of lights,when it comes to claims,complaints, and accusations of Treason.

    And best part of all,they enhance,promote,and emphasize the need for robust vigilance,in the attainment of facts,and truth when it comes to the serious crime of Treason..Wherever there are cries of Treason,and trumpets are blown,the tentacles
    of the law are unmatched in their precision to decipher,truth from lies,and falsehood;The Law becomes a sentry,protecting the gates of Justice,honor,and equity,seriously frowning,on unethical, behavior,and outright abuse of Power.

    Contrary,to what the delusional, erratic, incompetent,criminal, SLPP,and their gullible, supporters believe,the impeccable universal definition of Treason is inalterable,and not subject to change,just to satisfy their eerie, compulsive,inordinate appetite for revenge. There was no ATTEMPT,or INTENTION, to Kill, destroy,harm,or overthrow anyone; therefore, Paolo Conteh is innocent! He is being illegally detained – Let Him GO Now! Government of Sierra Leone, Let Paolo Conteh Go!Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  2. Honorable Abdul Thomas – this is the second comment I have sent yet it is somehow not getting through – What’s going on?

    • Mr Conteh – please be assured there are no conspiracies here to deny you your right to free speech by failing to publish your comments. Your last comment sent to us last night was published at about 11.51pm. Since then we have not received any other comments from you. Stop the suspicion. Lol

  3. According to the press release from the Conteh Family, Palo is known to always carry a gun with him, whenever and wherever he goes somewhere for his personal security. Apparently, he did not carry a gun to the first meeting with the President. One may be tempted to ask, why did he take a gun to this second meeting? One may also wonder, why a retired Army Colonel – a trained Attorney and former Minister of Defence should act in such a reckless manner? Could it be that his action was a plot to cause the President harm?

    Were there cameras in the building to support the allegations, that he tried to bypass the metal detectors? Were there other actors present in the building, waiting for the signal from Palo? Were there strange vehicles in the vicinity of the State House? What was the reason for him placing a call to the former President? The CID might need to do some serious investigations in order to get to the bottom of this reckless behaviour.

  4. I can’t even imagine to understand the reason why the former Defence minister, Alfred Palo Conteh decided to take a loaded pistol to State House in the first place. What were his aims and objectives? This is cleared without arguments. Does this man really know or understand the man he’s dealing with? (Bio). Yes he does, but wanted to taste the salt water, and he already got what he wanted.

    One thing you have to understand about Mr. Palo, he’s not honest. Why I say that; in 2018 after the general election he was accused of holding some petty secret military meeting, even the former President Koroma’s name was involved in his Makeni residence. As we all came to understand, there was not enough evidence to warrant that accusation from his former military colleague Lt. Leama, but Mr. Palo Conteh says something that was strange to every listener. Here is what he said: I never visit the former president Koroma’s residence. Really?

    Each and everyone can define treason the way you know it. Here is mine. In Sierra Leone law, treason is criminal disloyalty, typically to the state. Even to visit our local ministers offices in the country, no one is allowed to take a mobile device or weapon along with them, let alone to State House. This was a palace coup attempt. Bio is lucky. Palo should know better that this is the wrong time. After he was arrested he made two calls to two prominent people in the country, that will come out later. May God continue protecting this administration and give them wisdom. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  5. Plenty thanks given to God and we are all happy that, the dangerous plot was foiled or else, today Paolo Conteh would have been head of state. First of all, I see no reason for the guy’s invitation to State House. Bio needs to wake up. This is a wake up call. There is something behind this. Let the investigation continue. This man is a qualified lawyer and former defense minister. What kind of medical experience does he have? Bio wake up. Thanks

  6. At first when I read the story,I laughed until my bones began to ache;uncontrollably,and so very hard,causing my girlfriend to become so stunned,she thought I had completely lost my mind.(lol)What a sham this is,even class 5 children will tell you that it doesn’t make any sense,at all. Now,they are blowing trumpets, and calling for Paolo to face Treason. Well,let’s see if these ignoramuses can pull this one off; let’s see if they know what Treason really is.

    Folks,Treason is the threat of betraying ones country, especially when someone ATTEMPTS to kill,or overthrow a sovereign government. Now on what point exactly,according to the definition written above is Paolo Conteh guilty of committing the most serious crime,against our nation?Seriously,times without number, I warned APC leaders on this glorious forum, to beware of treachery,coming from the hands of the SLPP,yet it seems my advice fell on deaf ears for some – now there will be hell to pay!

    One of the founding fathers of the United States,Benjamin Franklin,,once wrote;” Tricks, and treachery are the practice of fools,that are not brave enough to be honest.” Total agree! And that sobering description,in my view, fits the incompetent, cowardly SLPP like a key into its rightful padlock. Gentlemen, the acts of treachery,and meanness of which the notorious SLPP are capable of bringing to fruition,are as countless as grains of sand. They are a little-minded people without honor, a disgraceful,silly bunch of men with stone age attitude;Greedy,they are,wicked and cruel.

    They have failed in governance miserably, so they had to cook up something,and create a distraction,from the urgent issues at hand – Paolo was set up;they threw him a bait,and he swallowed it,hook,line and sinker;He has only himself to blame for trusting a pack of raving, mercilessly erratic,wolves. The SLPP is unfit to rule; They have reduced our nation completely, to the most humiliating, degrading levels of abject Pauperism,never before,ever witnessed in Sierra Leone! Government in power, quit stoking the fires of discord – Let Paolo Conteh Go! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  7. This man should know better, a former defense minister for that matter. There is a clear intent. On his first visit he had no gun, but brought a gun on his second visit and avoided screening and enters a scoping room to wait, that’s where he was apprehended. But the entire security unit should be overhauled, very careless security system. How can people go through State House without being screened. When visitors are dressed in coats and ties they let them go through without screening, but harass people dressed in casual attires. What a pity.

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