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LIBERIA: SOLICITOR GENERAL TEARS INTO BAR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT

The Solicitor General of Liberia says the leadership of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) has been hijacked by political activists and radicals that are using its strips and edifice to propagate their own selfish political agenda to the detriment of other LNBA members.

In a press release issued in Monrovia recently, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus noted that allegations contained in statement issued by the LNBA against him is nothing but LNBA’s own figment of imagination, alleging that it was either driven by ignorance or mischief or both, and interspersed with personal hatred and jealousy of its President Taiwan Gongloe simply to tarnish his enviable legal credentials as a former defense counsel, spanning over a decade, in clear violation of his constitutional rights to due process.

Two days ago, the LNBA accused Cllr. Cephus of “threatening to arrest Cllr. Finley Karngar, a member of the LNBA, for his(Kangar) alleged failure to produce the living body of Henry Costa, whom he had signed for at the Liberia Immigration Service(LIS) and promised to produce, whenever needed but who has fled the country.

The LNBA release said assuming that Cllr. Finley did sign for Henry Costa to have him produced whenever needed by state security for an investigation, he (Cllr. Kangar) was no longer under obligation to do so, because the Liberian Government knew that Costa had fled the country and that the Government said it had begun arrangements with its Sierra Leone counterpart to have Costa extradited back to Liberia, and therefore, the guarantee note executed by Cllr. Kangar had become moot.

The LNBA release further noted that Cllr. Cephus being the Solicitor-General of Liberia and also a member of the LNBA, lacks the legal authority to arrest a member of the LNBA who has not committed any offense under Liberian law, and therefore, called on Cllr. Cephus to “exercise his authority within the scope of the law, and with regard to the rights of all Liberian citizens, including lawyers, as guaranteed by the Constitution of Liberia and the international bill of human rights.”

But the Solicitor General categorically denied the bar allegations and said that he is taken aback that the LNBA press release is solely based on an alleged recent statement attributed to him as a person, in particular, and his office, as the Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of the Republic of Liberia, without the courtesy of first reaching out to him and then ascertaining the facts as to whether or not such statement was ever made.

He termed as absolutely “baseless” the LNBA’s statement that he lacks the legal authority to arrest a lawyer, noting that as Solicitor-General and Chief Prosecutor of the Republic of Liberia, he has both the statutory and constitutional power and authority to arrest any violator of the law, including but not limited to any lawyer who will deceive state security by signing for an accused person facing criminal investigation, and thereafter, aiding and abetting the accused person to escape criminal prosecution.

Cllr. Cephus who is also a certified counsel of the International Criminal Court(ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands, and Vice President of the Madrid based AEA International Lawyers Network, described the LNBA press statement as an unprovoked attack on his person, image and profession as well as the office of the Solicitor-General, and noted that it is quite shameful and totally embarrassing that the LNBA leadership purportedly comprising of seasoned and professional lawyers, could not summon the unbridled courage and character to invite him to a conference, or present to him any complaint emanating from any member of the LNBA, seeking his side of the story, if any, before issuing such an emotionally charged and disdainful press release.

He said if the president of the Bar, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe is responsible enough and knows the values and tenets of a responsible leadership, he would have called a meeting of the Executive Council of the Bar, solicit suggestions before issuing any press release that denigrates a member of the LNBA.

Cllr. Cephus said the press statement issued by Tiawan Gongloe in the name of the LNBA is nothing but a libelous campaign purely intended for publicity purposes, and therefore advised Cllr. Gongloe to desist from taking unilateral actions and using the name of the LNBA to besmear the characters of those who do not share his political view.

Cllr. Cephus further described the LNBA press release as nothing but a verdict without a trial and stressed that the LNBA needs a responsible leadership, with a cool and modest temperament that will accord every citizen including its members a fair hearing, no matter the gravity of the allegations “attributed to them.

He added that the issuance of the press release by the LNBA merely on the basis of a recent statement “attributed” to him without any formal investigation to establish the fact, demonstrably shows that the LNBA is facing a serious leadership crisis, and needs the help of senior lawyers to redeem it from the clutches of blind political activists, to once again assume its pioneering role as a responsible democratic institution.

Cllr. Cephus in the release reminded the LNBA to take judicial cognizance of Article 20(a) of the 1986 Constitution by according all and any of its member falsely accused of any incident a fair and just hearing consistent with due process prior to issuing threats to impose “appropriate sanctions.”

Cllr. Cephus also reminded the LNBA’s President whom he described as a political activist and leader of the Movement for Justice in Africa(MOJA), that the constitutional rights that are accorded legal practitioners under Article 21(i) of the 1986 Constitution, do not include the right to execute guarantee notes in favor of an accused person, undergoing formal criminal investigation, but rather the right to be present at every stage of an investigation and provide legal guidance to the accused person.
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