President Bio sacks Attorney General Priscilla Schwartz

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 July 2020:

Sierra Leone’s Attorney General – Dr Priscilla Schwartz, has this evening been sacked by president Julius Maada Bio, after making a series of legal gaffes, including her decision to charge the former minister of defence – Retired Major Palo Conteh with treason, without any shred of evidence of treason having been committed.

After four months of investigation, trying to make the evidence fit the thirteen counts of treason filed against Palo Conteh, and a High Court trial that became a painful circus to watch, the Jury decided it would not be safe to find Palo Conteh guilty of treason, as the Attorney General and her officers in the government’s Law Department had failed to provide evidence for conviction.

Despite defense counsel representing Palo Conteh pleading in court for the Attorney General to withdraw the treason charges, so as to save unnecessary waste of tax payers’ money, the Attorney General had convinced herself and the president, that she was going to find Palo Conteh guilty of treason. Today she has paid for her stubbornness, lack of diligence, incompetence and inexperience.

The Attorney General was recently lampooned by the media in a separate case, brought by the State against the former minister of Social Welfare and opposition politician – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who is charged with ‘subversion, cyber crimes, and allegations of libellous conduct against the president’.

After months of investigation, struggling to find evidence that fits the allegations, Dr Blyden was arraigned before a magistrate court with a litany of ill-prepared charges by the Attorney General, only to make a mockery of the judiciary, prompting the media headline – “Dr. Sylvia Blyden lectures Attorney General”. Today, the media have been proven to be right.

Angered by that media headline, Dr Blyden was threatened and coerced by the court to publish a statement dissociating herself from the humiliating stories published about the poor performance of the Attorney General in preparing her case against Dr Blyden, who was kept at the notorious Pademba Road prison for months in violation of her human rights, before she was released on bail.

Although Dr Blyden’s trial continues, she now finds herself in a rather bizarre legal twist, where she is having to attend trial in both magistrate and High Court for more or less the same, alleged crimes against the State, upon the advise of the Attorney General.

Such wasteful and poor use of public resources by the Attorney General’s office has not gone unnoticed.

In the last week, since losing the Palo Conteh treason trial, the Attorney General has faced resounding calls for her sacking or resignation. And today those calls have been answered by the president.

Her critics say that by losing the Palo Conteh case, she lost the first case she ever dealt with in court, since becoming a lawyer twenty-five years ago.

So why did president Bio appoint her in the first place as Attorney General, when clearly her experiences and competences show she is more suitable for academic roles?

Some may say that, that question is now water under the bridge, but who has president Bio appointed as a replacement for Dr Priscilla Schwartz?

A statement released by State House this evening, reads: “It has pleased His Excellency the President (Retired) Julius Maada Bio to appoint Anthony Yehwoe Brewah as Attorney General and Minister of Justice with immediate effect”.

Anthony Yehwoe Brewah is the proprietor and lead partner of the firm of lawyers – Brewah and Co Chambers.  He was bypassed for the post of Attorney General when president Bio announced his first cabinet, after winning the presidential elections in 2018. He was instead appointed as minister of Local Government but was then sacked by the president shortly after his appointment.

Anthony Yehwoe Brewah is the third Attorney General appointed by the president since his election in 2018. He is said to have acted as lawyer for president Bio and the SLPP party during their days in opposition.

Sierra Leone now has a new Attorney General. But, when the history of this government is written, Dr Priscilla Schwartz will go down as the first Attorney General to be sacked within days of losing her first high profile, politically sensitive case for a sitting government of Sierra Leone.

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