Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 August 2020:
Last Tuesday, a defense lawyer acting for the Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh, Wara Serry-Karmal, told Appeals Court judges that the State has refused to provide documents relating to the treason trial to enable her client Palo Conteh, file his appeal against the court’s judgement.
She said they have written to the Chief Justice and the Master and Registrar of the Judiciary to provide the audio recording of the treason trial and the transcribed version of the audio recording, without success.
This failure to provide access to vital court records is hampering efforts by Palo Conteh’s lawyers to commence their appeal proceedings, the lawyer said.
Lead defense counsel for Palo Conteh – Dr. Abdulai Conteh has also expressed concern about the lack of access to court documents.
Conteh said that after the court had denied Alfred Palo Conteh bail and ordered that the documents of the treason trial be made available to his lawyers within seven days, the court authorities have failed to comply, thus denying his client access to justice.
One of the Appeals Judges sitting on the Palo Conteh appeal hearing – Justice Ivan Sesay, told Palo Conteh’s lawyers that all documents relating to Palo’s appeal should be filed by 17th September 2020, and informed both State and defence counsel to prepare for their oral submissions which will commence on 13th October, 2020.
Palo Conteh was found guilty a few weeks ago of the unlawful possession of small arms and carrying weapon in a prohibited place by the High Court, and was given a mandatory jail term, which Palo’s lawyers are now appealing.
Palo Conteh has been denied bail pending appeal, which the judge in their ruling told the court that they have carefully looked into the issues raised and the arguments for and against, and decided to dismiss his application for bail. The case continues at the Court of Appeal on 13th October.
In another case involving the State versus Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden at the Magistrate court last Monday, 24th August 2020, the magistrate once again adjourned hearing, after State prosecutors failed to present vital material evidence in court.
Supporters say that this is yet another evidence of the Bio government using the judiciary unlawfully to settle scores with Dr Blyden – an opposition politician. Others describe the behaviour of the prosecutors as suffering from “State administrative amnesia by proxy”.
The case was adjourned once again until 14th September 2020, at the request of the State prosecutor who informed the court that he has been assigned to the provinces on official duty for the next three weeks.
But before the adjournment, a police officer was called by the State prosecutor to “re-identify” the items seized from Dr. Sylvia Blyden’s house, including the large portrait of Former President Ernest Bai Koroma, which was raised high for identification in the court.
But shockingly, the hearing had to be adjourned by the magistrate as some of the other exhibits to be brought by the State as evidence of Dr Blyden’s guilt were reported as “missing in the courtroom”. The trial continues.