Palo Conteh should never have been charged with treason 

Yankuba Kai Samba: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 July 2020:

No jury should convict a man  when the prosecution blocked vital material evidence that could exonerate him. This was what I wrote two days before the jury reached their verdict.

The Paopa government supporters who had already convicted Paola Conteh for treason on social media, and frankly wanted him  to face the gallows, have  hailed his acquittal as a sigh of judicial independence and gave the credit to president Bio.

This is as bizarre as Paopa telling us that president Bio is the father of democracy in Sierra Leone.

How can the government charge a man for treason, when he should never have been charged in the first place? But when the government’s own  lawyers woefully failed to provide an iota of evidence to secure a conviction,  the credit goes to the president. What a bunch of shameless hypocrites.

I don’t know Paolo Conteh. We have never met and I can’t see the circumstances where we will ever meet. But from the very beginning, I published my opinion on the treason charges against him. It was fictitious, baseless and the evidence concocted to hang an innocent man.

But when the government charged him for treason, I issued a statement on Facebook, which challenged any lawyer to counter my argument that the treason charges against him were fictitious and that it would be unsafe to convict him.

The verdict by the ordinary men and women of the jury, acquitting him of 11 counts of treason  is not a reflection of a judiciary independence.  Rather, it is a rejection by the men and women of the jury, of the politics of revenge.

The government decided to charge Paolo with treason, fully aware that it was never a case of treason, and not a spec of evidence to realistically secure a conviction.  Indeed this was underlined by one of the state witnesses – a police officer, who testified that he was directed by the Attorney General to proffer  treason charges.

In an atmosphere of heightened political tensions between the government and the main opposition party, it’s a serious political miscalculation and high risk to seek to convict a former government minister on evidence that doesn’t exist at all. (Photo: Sierra Leone’s Attorney General -Dr Priscilla Schwartz ).

This verdict is a victory for common sense and a rejection of the Paopa government’s politics of revenge.

To me, the verdict is not evidence of judicial independence but shows  the courage of the jury. A man stood to lose his life when it was patently clear there wasn’t a shred of evidence to return a guilty verdict.

We need to see more judgements  given against the government,  including on  constitutional violations and electoral fraud litigations, before we can begin to examine how far our judiciary is free from corruption and covert political influence.

It is two years since a former government minister in the ousted APC administration of president  Koroma – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, filed an election petition against the winner of the 2018  election – president Bio. The court has never deliberated on that petition.

It is over a year and a half since both the Paopa SLPP  government of president Bio and the main opposition party APC, simultaneously filed election petitions against each other, for electoral irregularities. What’s the outcome?

The court swiftly decided on the petition brought by the government, which led to 9 previously elected APC MPs removed from their seats in parliament, turning a government minority into a majority in parliament.

Up till today, the court has not deliberated on the petition filed against the MPs of the ruling SLPP by the opposition APC. This delay has allowed the unscrupulous  government to take advantage of the judicial increments of MPs it now has,  to pass controversial legislations in parliament.

There are several other cases filed against the government but no hearing from the court. These  include petitions against the Falaba and Constituency 110 Bye elections. It would  take between a week and two weeks for the court to have decided on these petitions. But up till today nothing has been done.

When the judiciary become aware of the imperative of its independence from political corruption and interference,  and collectively become more assertive  in upholding the law and justice, without any notice to political influence, then Sierra Leone will be a country of laws – where politicians will be afraid.

11 Comments

  1. Hello honorable ART, not sure but i posted several comments, one on this article and a couple on the initial article regarding Paolo conteh’s jury verdict, i have not seen none posted. Please double check sir. Thanks

    • Young4na – your posts were received and they were all in reply to Brima Sesay – which I took the view that if allowed to be pubished, would further inflame an already deteriorating personall attack between the two of you. Please note that I have a responsibility to maintain the principles of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence among forumites. I trust you will understand the decision not to publish those inflamatory comments. I strongly advise also, that Brima Sesay desist to avoid being removed from the forum. Thanks.

  2. Stargazer, there is a lot of semblance in your story to what happened on that fateful day at Pademba Road prisons, when over 40 innocent and defenceless inmates were culled like infected pigs by so-called presidential guards. In fact, it is like a direct simulation of this incident which took place at the wee hours of the morning. There are many questions yet to be addressed amid the circumstances that led to this barbaric and unfortunate occurrence. For instance, what were the SLPP women’s leader (Fatmata Sawaneh) and the Deputy Interior Minister (Lahai Lawrence Leema) doing there at 3 O’clock in the morning? Why did the presidential guards not used rubber bullets instead, to avert the jailbreak as alleged, in order to minimize potential casualties?

    As usual, the finger was pointed at the Opposition APC party as the perpetrators of this horrific incident. In spite of this, a thorough investigation was promised by President Maada Bio to verify the fact that the APC was involved in the attempted jailbreak in an effort to rescue their own, Rtd Mayor Alfred Paolo Conteh, who was apparently detained there (Pademba Road prisons) at the time. However, it appears there is no sign of an investigation up to this moment. What is cooking up?

    Furthermore, it is suspicious to recall that, immediately after the horrendous slaughter of those unarmed prisoners President Bio convened a meeting at State House with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and promised to provide them with the bare facts of this incident’s investigation. Civil society Organisations are basically significant structures in a democracy to monitor the compliance by governments with human rights activities. Though seemingly, since this government came to power 2-years ago, most CSOs have virtually gone ‘extinct’ – no mouth any longer to defend the ordinary people. When is the public going to have the outcome of the investigation of the Pademba Road prisons massacre, President Bio? On the other hand, is the International Criminal Court (ICC) taking stock of current events in Sierra Leone?

    • Indeed somehow I knew my brother from another mother, the ‘Illustrious’ Mr Alimamy Turay would be able to see,and connect the parallels to my story in relation to the brutal massacre of 40 unarmed prisoners in the so called Pademba road prison riots.Good question brother – what were SLPP operatives doing in the Prison at 3 am in the morning if not to meticulously perform their infernal,demonic ritualistic sacrifices? Again,you were right on the money,only a gullible 5 year old will not consider it suspicious,when after the barbaric slaughtering the President immediately convened a meeting with CSO’s giving them his bogus,synthetic reassurances that there was going to be a thorough,unbiased investigation into the causes of the matter.Since then not a word has bee heard from the criminal cabal.

      Criminals they are,that we are strongly determined to someday drag to the ICC,when they are eventually out of power. Again, many thanks to the sharp-witted Mr Matturi for his unflinching stance against injustice,despotism,and corruption.My brothers – there are demons and devils clothed in human flesh now among us,therefore we must be vigilant…Tooth and nail,fiercely for the soul of our SIERRA LEONE,we must fight the good fight of faith.

  3. Oh my goodness! 40 of our prisoners and prison officers maliciously and brutally massacred by President Bio’s security guards? I thought it was 11. I can’t believe my eyes when I read Stargerzer’s comment. Within minutes I received information from some of my sources in BO city that effectively, it was arround 40 people killed. This is serious stuff. Parliament must try by all means to call for an investigation into this matter. Sierra Leonean lives matter. No matter what crimes they committed, they should not be eliminated like that. On the 29th of April 2020, it was our prisoners and prison officers who were brutally massacred with overwhelming force.

    Next time, it could be anyone of us. From ordinary citizens to our parliamentarians. Will parliament please call for an investigation into this very serious and unacceptable brutal violations of human rights as soon as possible? God bless Stargerzer for reminding the more than 26000 readers of this globally respected online Newspaper and the world on this very heinous, horrendous and savage act of barbarity. Amen and Amen.

  4. Based on my understanding, even spying is a treasonable but in this case the prosecutors charged Paola Conteh with Treason based on his intention and background as a nephew of the former President Joseph Saidu Momoh, who was overthrown and late Bambay Kamara who was executed under the NPRC popular revolution of 1992. Retired Colonel and former defense minister Paola Conteh was a beneficiary of that corrupt APC government for decades and as he testified in court that he only heard about the news on a newspaper in London where his uncle sent him on government scholarship and study leave just to avoid the civil war, while Captain Valentine Strasser, late S.A.J Musa, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio to name but a few, were sacrificing their lives in the trenches in defending our nation.

    The prosecutors believe that Paola Conteh who is not an ordinary citizen but someone who is already conversant with the law was on a mission to revenge for both of his uncles by killing just President Maada Bio for the role he played in the revolution which affected him personally. Lately Paola Conteh made a video clip on which he expressed frustration at harassment from Deputy Minister Lawrence Leema and his frustration was up to his neck, so there was a probability that he took a loaded gun to the statehouse for revenge. But the reality is only the Almighty knows our intentions, but the burden of proof was on the prosecutors. Thanks to the Almighty, the President, Attorney General and the Chief Justice rescued themselves from and left the decision with the 12 jurors and the Almighty who decided to have MERCY UPON HIM for his Stupidity and Insanity for taking a loaded weapon to the statehouse instead of leaving it at home or inside his vehicle.

    I still personally believe that he has a mental problem ( paranoia) and instead of spending his sentence in Pademba Road Prison the Judge should send him to a mental institution or under house arrest because of the pandemic where he can receive psychological help while spending time with his family. I hope the Almighty will have mercy on him for his past deeds because what happened to him within these few months that he supposed to be enjoying his brand new Toyota 4Runner SUV and continue to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic is a mystery. Finally how can Sylvia Blyden contest an election result when her name was not on the ballot? As Sierra Leoneans, we have to respect and work with what we have in our hands ( Sierra Leone Judiciary) rather than what we have in our heads (Western World Judiciary) which also have their own challenges but they still respect their system.

  5. Going back to the 1970s when president Saika P. Stevens and his APC government introduced the notion – the only way to settle a political debate in Sierra Leone is to send those that are opposed to your political ideas to the gallows, or give them a long prison sentence. His government sowed the seed of mistrust between the public and the judiciary. Rather than being independent, our judiciary adopted the role of enforcer of state crimes against innocent Sierra Leoneans. In reality, their only crime is to devote their lives for the development of our country. I hope this is the beginning of a change.

    APC and SLPP debate is nothing new. With the advent of social media, it has just been amplified. And it has now become like an echo chamber. Both sides have their own misfits wedded in tribal lines – cyber warriors. Unfortunately, our judiciary is caught slap down in the middle. We as a nation have lost concentration on how to develop our country. It stands to reason everyone who knows the historical injustices perpetuated by the state against distinguished innocent men and women, is far happy to see Alfred Paolo Conteh avoid the same fate as the ones that have gone before him.

    If you are perceived to be a threat, real or imagined, they will endeavour to silence you by whatever means. I stand to be corrected. Knowing the history of our country, I will say 90% of treason trials end up in conviction. There is no room to second guess the outcome. Until now, our judiciary has behaved like the same taxi – different driver mentally. The outcome has always favoured the state. There are others that are executed without even the benefit of a trial. The ones that were executed by Jonny Paul Koroma’s AFRC junta, and Valentin Strasser military government. It all started from the execution of the popular Brigadier Sam Bangura, who took over power and handed it to then Prime Minister Stevens.

  6. No kidding hahahaha; an unequivocal, well written truth revelation piece by Mr. Samba. The POAPA extremists are trying very hard to have it both ways, however, the majority of patriotic Sierra Leoneans are yelling loud and clear that enough is enough. Exactly, how can a regime purported to be peace loving, democratic and discipline, continuously round up innocent citizens, incarcerate them for months in inhumane prison cell, and later charge them on bogus, flimsy charges with absolutely no corroborative evidence?

    Is it safe to suggest the extremists might be playing games with citizens’ lives, by clandestinely rounding up innocent citizens, torture and parade them as criminals, with a plan of presenting the accused to the president for pardoning, hence boosting the not so admirable human right records of president Bio? One thing is certain however, in this age of technology with ease of access to information anywhere around the globe, whatever dubious plans these clowns are working on will be exposed.

    • Young4na, here are you again, you always have ill comments about Bio; what kind of negative human records you personally have for Bio? Say it don’t hesitate – this is a free world and Democracy you can say whatever you like. Sometimes I do like to read Mr. Jalloh’s articles because it educates me well. You’re ignoring the fact that H.E.RTD.BRG.DR.J.M.Bio was once a military officer who fought the enemies and sacrificed all his life for his country. These noble men used to live on (gari) brother, he deserves honors and respects brother.
      I see no factual reasons for Paolo to carry a hidden loaded pistol to the state house, especially on the president’s invitation. Let’s face the reality folks. I personally believe that the acquittal of Paolo’s treason trial, not all APCs are happy for that, there is a chaos right now in the party. The 2023 presidential aspirants want him go 4na. May God protect this country

  7. The wise speak in parables – There was once a Vietnamese General called Chi Nguyen,that was an indomitable warrior through and through;’A man with a purpose’ he was nicknamed by enemies,and friends alike.But Chi was no ordinary General,he had survived 18 wars in his lifetime,without a scratch because he was a Grand dragon who had mastered all the best,and most important books on self-protection from ancient Occultic philosophy;And most importantly Chi made it a priority to never let a week go by without sacrificing anything breathing and alive – Goats,Cows,Chickens,and Rabbits to the devils he adored,and worshiped.

    One night as he lay in bed,he heard a faint knock on the door;it was the Grand Wizard himself,that had paid him a visit.He told the General that he had only a short time to live unless he was able to sacrifice the lives of 40 living,breathing human beings before the oncoming cold Winter season.”Forty? How are my ever going to do that?”the General protested,’There are no wars,or conflicts where i can slaughter people like chickens going on right now” he lamented with heavy a sigh.”You must find a way to do it,” the Grand Wizard barked,like an angry wolf,as he stood up,and walked hastily away.The end had finally come!Days and night went by,and just like the notorious SLPP the General kept on looking for ways to solve the problem he was facing;Finally one night,as he tucked himself quietly in bed a devious thought occurred to him;(Oh oh gotta run – doorbells ringing,Mr Thomas,I am expecting a lovely guest) Adios! To be continued for sure.(lol)

    • The SLPP wickedly murdered those 40 unarmed prisoners in cold blood, my sources in Freetown told me; Paolo’s trial was just a way of diverting attention away from the brutal crimes the SLPP were intent on committing against all of humanity. Now a rare story continues,that totally explains the hearts of wicked men, like those currently in the SLPP – “Finally one night, as the General tucked himself quietly in bed,a devious thought occurred to him. The Prime Minister’s daughter was getting married in a week, so why not invite their neighbor,the Leader of Cambodia’s son to the ceremony and then have him kidnapped for ransom; then both rulers will have no choice but to ask for his help and without any suspicions,in a rescue attempt,he would go straight ahead,and slaughter the 40 persons he needed to provide as a sacrifice for his continued longevity,on the blood-stained altars of occultuic forces.

      It was a perfect plan, a clever plan,just like the one the SLPP hatched unanimously,in the secrecy of their infernal oracles,before they slaughtered 40 unarmed citizens. The general hugged his pillow with ecstatic joy – finally a solution had come. At dawn he zipped away to Ho Chi Minh city, known as the district of 5 no’s (No sewers,no water,no electricity, no job,and no hope)and there Chi found some criminals he paid a hefty sum to kidnap the leader of Cambodia’s son,their invited guest. And they quickly did.

      The General was overjoyed when the call came from above asking for help to rescue their distinguished guest.Instantly,he gathered his men like a swarm of bees and headed to Ho Chi Minh city where he heartlessly massacred the same people he had paid to kidnap the unsuspecting Prime Minister’s guest. As he stood there counting the bodies,he roared like a lion when he reached 200,knowing that he had escaped a deadly and dangerous trap – their guest was free just like Paolo Conteh and 40 people were dead for the purposes of demonic, ritualistic sacrifice – mission accomplished.

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