Sierra Leone: Dr Sylvia Blyden refused bail by magistrate

Mamos Media

Sierra Leone’s former minister of social welfare in the Koroma-led APC government, who was arrested by police and has been in detention for the past three weeks, appeared at the magistrate court today, where many expected her to be granted bail.

But those hopes were dashed when the presiding magistrate Hannah Bonnie, refused bail, due to what was considered as “serious crimes”.

Dr Blyden has today been charged with ten count offences, ranging from seditious libel, publication of false news, defamatory libel, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and doing an act tending to pervert the course of justice.

The case has been adjourned to next Thursday, 28th of May 2020, with little or no prospect now of Dr Blyden receiving bail.

Also appearing in court today, was a young child-rights activist – Muckson Sesay, who was arrested immediately following the detention of Dr Blyden.

And, after spending weeks behind bars without charge, today the young man was charged for publishing a picture of Dr Blyden on social media taken when she was being interveiwed at  CID, a charge he deneis. (Photo).

“The Sierra Leone government’s unrelenting pursuit of  Dr Sylvia Blyden without bail is nothing short of a full-scale assault on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  Prominent female activist, journalist & health advocate, Dr Sylvia Blyden has been held in police custody for 21 days without bail following her arbitrary arrest by armed security forces.

“Dr Sylvia Blyden was detained after calling on the government of President Julius Maada Bio to respect and protect human rights and democracy, and take more appropriate measures to tackle Covid-19.

“All eyes are now on the Sierra Leone judiciary to see if due process will apply. The burden is on the judiciary to uphold the rule of law and protect our human rights or allowed to be used and further undermine judicial independence and the rule of law,” says rights campaigners yesterday.

In another development, former defence minister – Palo Conteh. appeared at the High Court in Freetown, yesterday Friday, 21 May 2020, presided by Justice Alhaji Momoh Jah Stevens.

Alfred Palo Conteh and others have been charged for crimes relating to illegal possession of firearms and other felonious offences.

Palo Conteh is being represented by the veteran and erudite international lawyer – Dr Abdulai O. Conteh – who is also the former Chief Justice of the Belize Supreme Court; former Special Court Judge and Attorney General in the Koroma-led APC government – Joseph F. Kamara; and Barrister Wara Serry-Kamal.

Representing the State, are the Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Mrs. Priscilla Schwartz and Barrister – Adrian Fisher as lead prosecutors; Director of Public Prosecutions – Mr. Ngakui; D.J Soyie; J.K Sesay; Robin Mason; and Umaru Napoleon Koroma, –  all present in court yesterday.

Opening and submitting the case for the State, the Attorney General is said to have questioned:  “How can a trained soldier who has held several positions of security nature, above all a Barrister who knows the law of the land, carried a loaded gun to the Office of the President,  if not to use it?”

Palo Conteh, whose wife also appeared in court two days ago for unlawful possession of firearms and refused bail by magistrate, has been held in detenion for the past several months, after he was arrested for allegedly taking a gun into State House.

But during Palo Conteh’s last appearance at the magistrate court, his lawyers questioned the veracity of the charges and demanded that State prosecutors produce the video recording showing Conteh walking into State House with a gun. Prosecutors refused.

Palo Conteh’s case was adjourned until 26 May 2020.

According to court report by Milton Margai, in the case involving Isata Saccoh – the wife of Palo Conteh,  who appeared  before Magistrate Hannah Bonnie last Wednesday, 20th May 2020, it is alleged that she conspired with others to help  Palo Conteh escape from the Pademba Road Prison.

State Prosecutor – Adrian Fisher, read out three charges against Isata Saccoh, ranging from  – conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to law, to possession of a small arms and light weapon.

According to State witness – Detective Nathaniel Desmond Williams, said he took possession of all the evidence gathered from the raid carried out at the house of Isata Saccoh, as he handed the exhibits to the court.

However, the lead counsel for the accused – lawyer Wara Serry-Kamal, objected to count 1. According to court reporter – Osman Kamara of Radio 98.1, the lead counsel said the police couldn’t show which law they used and that they were deceiving the court. She asked that Count one be corrected.

She also highlighted that her client has been ‘in custody for 21 days, which goes against her human rights,’ as she requests bail on the grounds that her client is not a flight risk. “She can come to court anytime the case comes up and that she has a reliable surety,” she said.

But, Magistrate Bonnie refused bail and sent Isata Saccoh on remand until Friday 22nd May, 2020. The case continues.

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