Liberia: Anti-ritual killing Taskforce gets 2 motorbikes

Liberia is not known to actively fight ritualistic murders or to prosecute and condemn perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Yet, according to a recent newspaper article (reproduced below) it has a anti-ritual killing taskforce – which is quite revealing. Is the Taskforce just window-dressing or is it a sincere attempt to fight these criminal, traditional practices which are so hard to wipe out?  I do not know the taskforce’s mandate, year of creation or its yearly budget, but will try to do some research and will let you know my findings asap.

Recently, Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris donated two brand new motorbikes to the anti-ritual killing Taskforce. At the occasion, he again expressed his condolences to the families of Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and killed allegedly for ritual purposes in early June 2019 (see my August 4, 2019 posting with the article entitled ‘Ritual Killings’ Spark Riot in Kingsville, dated June 25, 2019). 

Representative Morris made a generous gesture by donating two motorbikes to the anti-ritual killing taskforce, but will his donation solve the endemic problem of ritualistic killings in the country, or make a significant contribution to fighting these crimes?

I have my doubts. In my view, more needs to be done to effectively end ritual killings in a country where superstition, ignorance, poverty, greed, lack of rule of law and impunity are responsible for the continuation of these criminal practices (webmaster FVDK).

Anti-Ritual Killing Taskforce Gets 2 Motorbikes

Published: October 25, 2019
By: Daily Observer –  Leroy M. Sonpon, III 

Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris donates two brand new motorbike for Anti-Ritual Killings

Two brand new motorbikes, in the tune of L$490,000, have been donated to the Anti-Ritual Killing Community Watch-Team in Number 7 Community, Kingsville Township, Montserrado County District #1 on Thursday, October 24, 2019 to assist the Liberia National Police (LNP) to protect lives and properties.

Montserrado County District #1 Representative Rep. Lawrence Morris called on the District to choose peace over violence and end violence and ritualistic killings that would have the propensity to cause civil war or divide the district and, at large, the nation.

Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris

He again expressed his condolences to the bereaved families of the two children, Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and killed allegedly for ritual purposes in early June 2019 (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

The House’s chairman on Refugees Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration urged his constituencies to join him not to applaud the ritualistic killings, and must never choose violence instead of peace; lies instead of truth and laugh at obscenities instead of correcting them.

He pointed out the new bikes are in fulfillment of his promise to support the Community Watch-Team to save lives and protect properties.

The Montserrado County lawmaker said: “You shall not murder or You shall not kill, is a moral imperative included as one of the Ten Commandments in the Holy Bible and it’s a sin against God.”

It may be recalled that, on Monday, June 24, 2019, aggrieved citizens of the Kingsville town blocked the main road from Red-Light to Kakata in demand for justice for two boys, Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and later killed allegedly for ritual purposes (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

The demonstrators were holding aloft placards bearing inscriptions that read, “We want justice,” as they occupied the middle of the road with themselves and abandoned pieces of timber and metallic objects used to set up the roadblock.

Source: Anti-Ritual Killing Taskforce Gets 2 Motorbikes for Utility

Liberia: Maryland police arrest eight suspects for murdering three for witchcraft

If one had hoped that the trial of the seven accused in the Sinoe murder case (the ‘Johnny Town Murder Case’ – see my previous postings on this subject) would have acted as a deterrent, unfortunately, reality is different. On September 5, another case has been revealed, this time in Maryland County, in the eastern part of the country, near Ivory Coast.
One the one hand, the Liberian police is to be commended for its swift action and upholding the law; on the other hand, one wonders if and when mob justice, trail by ordeal (sassy wood trials) and the belief in witchcraft wil ever end in Liberia.

Warning: the article below contains some graphic details (webmaster FVDK).

Featured photo by Franklin Nehyalor

Published: September 5, 2019
By: Franklin Nehyalor – The Bush Chicken

HARPER, Maryland – Police in Harper, Maryland are currently investigating eight persons in Rock Town, Barrobo District for allegedly killing three people.

According to the commander of the Maryland Police Detachment, Jacob Comehn, 14 persons were accused of murdering Town Chief Isaac Weah Sadyee, Isaac Gortoe, and an 18-year-old identified as David Nugbo.

Comehn told journalists that he had received a call the morning of Monday, September 2 from Rock Town Community about the murders. The following day, he said his officers went to the location and arrested 8 of the 14 suspects. Six persons are still on the run.

Those arrested were John Tewah, Moses Chea, Sam Gbaquee, Chea Karmune, Deagba Toe, David Weah, Solomon Weah, and Cyrus Doe. All were males and ranged in ages from 33 to 50.

Comehn said the three persons murdered had been accused of witchcraft. He said the accused had been brought in the middle of town for questioning, where they reportedly confessed openly that they had planned to kill some Rock Town residents through witchcraft.

The police commander did not say whether the men were tortured before their confession, but he noted that they were murdered with cutlasses and other sharp objects.

Comehn described the deceased bodies as bearing signs of having undergone excruciating pain. Saydee’s two hands were cut and his two eyes were plucked, while Gortoe was chopped with cutlasses on his neck and the 18-year-old Nugbo had cutlass marks on his forehead and chest.

Prior to the killing, Comehn said the 14 suspects had asked women of the town to go indoors for the “country devil” to be released.

The case is eerily reminiscent of an ongoing trial in Buchanan, where seven men are being tried for gang-raping three women and murdering one of them after they were accused of being witches.

In that case, a defendant testified that the three women were turned over to the traditional society because they had been accused of witchcraft. A “country devil” had also been called to come take the women away and the town crier had asked all those around to go indoors. The defendant then explained that the body parts were extracted from the murder victim. The seven defendants were found guilty and are awaiting sentencing once they exhaust the appeal process.

Meanwhile, the Maryland police commander is calling on the public to assist in locating the remaining suspects. They are Toeson Hinneh, Jacob Doe, Varsco Weah, Prince Doe, Dargba Toe, and Amos Bahway.

“We in this part of the country remain committed to saving lives and properties as part of our duties in helping the government of Liberia in dealing with crimes,” Comehn said.

The eight suspects are in police custody and undergoing thorough investigation in Harper, Maryland. After police investigation, Comehn said the eight suspects will be charged and sent to court.

The three victims were buried on Wednesday by family members.

Source: Maryland Police Arrest Eight Suspects for Murdering Three for Witchcraft

Liberia: Court sentences Sinoe gang rape and murder defendants to 25 years in prison

Earlier than expected, Judge Joe Barkon of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County has handed down his final ruling in the Sinoe murder case. Justice is done! But will this landmark case act as a deterrent?

For the answer, see tomorrow’s posting (September 9, 2019)
(webmaster FVDK).

Featured photo by Sampson David

Published: September 6, 2019
By: Sampson David – The Bush Chicken

BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – The Second Judicial Circuit Court has handed down its final ruling in the Sinoe gang rape and murder case, sentencing the seven defendants to 25 years in prison.

The ruling confirmed the guilty verdict rendered by the jury on August 30th against Moses Solo, Alex Karpeh, Sylvester Charty, Teah Gmanwle, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Dennis Pyne Nimely.

The case stems from a December 12, 2018 incident where three women were stripped naked, paraded, and gang-raped in Johnny Town, Nomorpoe District, Sinoe. They were accused of witchcraft and one of the women, Willette Nyewallah, was murdered and buried secretly in a swamp in Johnny Town.

The defendants were charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal facilitation, and criminal conspiracy, and the case was transferred to the Second Judicial Circuit Court to avoid interference from powerful members of the traditional society.

The case began on August 13, with the defendants represented by a team of public defenders led by Grand Bassa’s public defender, Paul Jarvan.

Ten of the twelve jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while two abstained.

The head of the defense counsel, Jarvan, took exception to the jurors’ verdict, adding that he expected five of the seven persons who are not members of the traditional society to have been set free.

“The indictment said traditional people [were responsible for the murder], and the father of the deceased came and said only two persons up there [were members of the traditional society] – Alex Carpeh and Moses Solo,” he told journalists on Friday, August 30 at the court.

He filed a motion for retrial on September 2 and the argument took place on September 5, but Judge Joe Barkon denied the motion on grounds that the guilty verdict rendered by the jury against the seven defendants supports the weight of the evidence presented in court by the prosecution.

Barkon said a motion for a new trial may only be granted if the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence. He added that the jury did not only consider the statements of co-defendants Moses Solo and Alex Karpeh when making its decision.

The defense had also countered that the prosecution failed to produce a medical report confirming that the victims had been raped, but Judge Barkon said the testimonies provided by the two victims and corroborated by other testimonies point to the victims being raped.

“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing facts and circumstances and the laws applicable herein, it is the ruling of this court that the motion for new trial is hereby denied and the resistance thereof sustained,” Barkon said.

“This act of the defendants is wicked, grossly inhumane and dehumanizing, indifferent to human value, [cruel], uncivilized, barbaric.”

Barkon directed the court’s clerk to notify the superintendent of the Buchanan Central Prison of the court’s final judgment. However, the defense counsel decided to appeal to the Supreme Court, which will review the case in March 2020.

Meanwhile, prosecution lawyers took exception to the sentencing, noting that the period of 25 years was the bare minimum required by law.

After the sentencing, three of the defendants – Dennis Pyne Nimely, Victor Solo and Sylvester Charty – maintained their claims of innocence. They added that they are hopeful of being freed when the case appears at the Supreme Court.

Nimely said he is the only breadwinner for his family and his incarceration for 25 years for crimes that he did not commit would be a setback to his family.

“It is only by the grace of God they are currently surviving,” he said. “I don’t even know their situation now. They expected me to be free and go back home, but it is on the contrary.”

Source: Court Sentences Sinoe Gang Rape and Murder Defendants to 25 Years

“Johnny’s Town Murder Trial: Finally, Justice Is Done!” – Liberia

Last week, one of Liberia’s leading newspapers, the Daily Observer, published an enthusiastic article, lauding the judiciary system in Liberia, following the jury’s conclusion that 7 defendants in the Sinoe murder case (‘the Johnny Town Murder Trial’) were found guilty of murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation. The article focuses on harmful traditional practices in Liberia, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The authors conclude that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example. 

The article provides a useful summary of the case, its background and significance, and is therefore highly recommended. I fully agree with the main conclusion: 
“This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.”
(webmaster FVDK).

Published: September 3, 2019
By: National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) and Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) – published by the Daily Observer 

The Case 

Late last year, three young Liberian women in Johnny Town, Kpayan District, Sinoe County, were accused by a group of community dwellers of kidnapping a three-month-old child for witchcraft rituals. Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah were subjected to trial by ordeal and abused, tortured and gang raped. One of the women, Willete, was killed. Another was hospitalized and later discharged. Stories surrounding the third woman, who happens to be the mother of the missing child, are quite conflicting.

It is said that Willete, who was killed in this incident, was few months pregnant prior to her unfortunate death. All the accused women fervently denied involvement in witchcraft and in the disappearance of the child. These women experienced unimaginable abuse. They were stripped naked before public glare and paraded from one corner of the town to another; thereafter, they were taken into the bush and subjected to trial by ordeal and to other violent crimes. Before these young women were abducted, tortured and one killed, they were living peaceful lives with their families and loved ones.

The young men accused of these crimes allegedly committed these inhumane acts under the orders of some traditional leaders, including a female traditionalist who allegedly subjected the women to trial by ordeal.

Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia 

Trial by ordeal is a harmful traditional practice in which suspects are subjected to torture and other forms of inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The practice is usually done in extremely brutal manner and is intended to have suspects forcefully (and likely falsely) confessing guilt. The pain that comes with trial by ordeal is often raw and severe and can force people to confess guilt even if they were not the actual doers of the act for which ,they were accused. This practice has been outlawed by the Government of Liberia but it still persists.

An UNMIL and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights assessment of Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia found that some traditional and cultural practices common to many Liberian ethnic communities have a significantly negative impact on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. These include FGM, forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The assessment found that “these practices have particularly affected certain groups such as women, children, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, as well as the poorest Liberians” ( UNMIL and OHCHR 2015-An Assessment of Human Rights Issues Emanating from Traditional Practices in Liberia p.2).

This high prevalence is fundamentally why we believe that all must be done to step up the fight against harmful traditional practices. A critical starting point was ensuring the rule of law with particular focus on increasing access to justice for women and girls. We submit here that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example!

Civil Society Supports the Survivors 

Immediately after these vicious crimes committed against Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah came to light, the National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) coordinated county-level advocacy actions with the active involvement of the Sinoe County Women Platform and the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI). Soon after, the case captured national and international attention. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection got involved, as did some concerned Liberian women and women’s organizations.

At national level, advocacy actions were coordinated by the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) in close collaboration with NIPO and FCI. As part of these actions, the coalition presented its position statement to the National Legislature, calling on the Government of Liberia to provide reparation for survivors, relocate and resettle survivors and transfer the case to neutral location to avoid “local interference” or “manipulation”. Copies of this statement were presented to key embassies near Monrovia including the American and British Embassies. Subsequently, ten arrests were made and the case was transferred from the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court in Sinoe County to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County. The case was scheduled to be heard during the August Term of Court.

Trial Proceedings 

The August Term of Court opened on August 12th, 2019 and the Johnny’s Town Murder Case was the first on the docket. Seven persons indicted for murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation faced a jury trial with fifteen jurors handing down the verdict. Initially, ten persons were arrested, indicted and taken to court in relation to this case. Three were nolle prosequoi, (the legal term for dropping charges against an accused for lack of evidence). Final arguments in the case were heard on Friday, August 30. Immediately thereafter, the jury unanimously handed down a guilty verdict against all seven indictees.

Sinoe County Women Platform

Prior to the opening of the August Term of Court, NIPO and FCI jointly sponsored ten members of the Sinoe County Women Platform to Grand Bassa County to continue advocacy actions and witness legal proceedings. The sponsorship covered the travel, accommodation and feeding of the ten-member team. They arrived in Grand Bassa County on the 10th of August and were met on arrival by NIPO and FCI. Advocacy in Grand Bassa was coordinated and executed alongside the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA).

The women gathered before the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court holding placards with inscriptions such as “No Excuse for Abuse” and “They Deserve Justice”, and called for a speedy and fair trial. They were assured that there was no need for protest actions because the case was the first on the docket.  This position was reinforced by the president of the Grand Bassa County Bar Association who spoke with the women and assured them that the Bar would do everything necessary to ensure that justice is served in a timely manner.

This case significantly helped the Platform to expand its network and amplify their voices at the regional level. Thanks to collaboration with the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA). The women continuously recommitted themselves to continuing their advocacy until the case was brought to a logical end.

Lorraine G. Mennon is the chairperson for the Platform. She committed to providing leadership in planning, organizing and implementing continuous advocacy actions and coordinating activities of the Platform until perpetrators were brought to book. She described the unanimous guilty verdict as a magnificent precedence and prayed that the state takes similar action against other people indicted for harmful traditional practices and violence against women and girls across Liberia. Madam Mennon informed NIPO and FCI that they will keep the Platform proactive, indicating that smaller community awareness actions will be organized and implemented to inform local women and girls about the effects of harmful traditional practices, expand knowledge and information about the Platform and create linkages with towns and villages with the view of monitoring, documenting, reporting and advocating against these bad cultural practices.

NIPO’s Lawyer joined the Prosecution Team

On Monday, August 12th, NIPO’s lawyer, Atty. Freeman, joined the prosecution team and promised to put his legal and research expertise to the disposal of the government towards winning the case. He promised to play active role in the cross examination of defense witnesses but later restricted his role to liaising with and motivating state lawyers. He told NIPO that after examining all the pieces of evidence against the accused, proof was evident and presumption great for their conviction. Atty. Freeman was hired and is paid by NIPO’s access to justice project, funded by UNDP-Liberia through Oxfam.

Conclusion

The Johnny’s Town Trial was a landmark case involving harmful traditional practices which inflicted serious injuries on two of three young Liberian women. This inhumane and criminal act led to the gruesome death of one of the victims and the hospitalization of another. Due to sustained advocacy actions at both the county and national levels, ten arrests were made, the case transferred to a neutral location and the survivors relocated. Legal proceedings in the case began in this August Term of Court. NIPO, FCI, Sinoe Women’s Platform and other women’s groups including the Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA), were very unwavering in supporting the survivors’ protection and access to justice in this case.

NIPO and FCI’s advocacy around this case was supported by Oxfam with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.  The project, called “Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women” or FLOW, has the goals of promoting women’s rights to be heard and to live free from violence. The FLOW Project has successfully run in Liberia since 2016.

The lawyer hired by NIPO to support the State’s case is paid by the UNDP through Oxfam. This project is called “Strengthening Access to Justice for Women and Girls in Sinoe and Grand Gedeh.”

Due process was necessary to rendering justice against harmful traditional practices, protecting women and girls from the dangers of the practice, punishing perpetrators for wrongful actions and finding redress for victims and survivors. This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Oxfam, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, or the UNDP.

Source: Johnny’s Town Murder Trial: Finally, Justice Is Done!

Liberia: Court to sentence 7 defendants found guilty in Sinoe County murder case

The article below – published by Liberia’s leading newspaper FrontPageAfrica – reports that on August 30, the Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court unanimously found seven defendants guilty in the Sinoe murder case. This is not consistent with an earlier article, published by The Bush Chicken – another well  known Liberian newspaper – which reported that 10 of the 12 jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while 2 abstained (see my September 2 posting). 

Judge Joe Barkon of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County murder case on Monday, September 9.

To be continued (webmaster FVDK). 

A photo of the women who were claimed to be witches

Published: September 3, 2019
By: Kennedy L. Yangian – FrontPageAfrica

Monrovia – Court sources at the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County, have disclosed that Judge Joe Barkon is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County gang rape and murder case, on Monday, September 9.

The judge’s ruling will be followed by the sentencing of the seven defendants found guilty of murder and gang rape in

Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court Friday, August 30, unanimously found the defendants guilty in the murder and gang-rape case.

This comes after more than two weeks of legal battle between government lawyers, led by Cllr. Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, and Defense lawyers, led by Cllr. Paul Philip Jarvan.

Judge Barkon reserved ruling into the case last Friday, August 30, in line with the law that provides for time in sentencing of Defendants who are found guilty.

 The seven guilty defendants are Moses Solo, Ellis Karpeh, Sylvester Chardy, Swen Kelgbeh, Teah Gmanwolou, Victor Solo and Pyne Nyene. They will be sentenced for Murder, Gang Rape, aggravated Assault, Criminal Conspiracy and Facilitation.

The defendants were among 10 persons who were arrested by state security and indicted in Greenville City, Sinoe County in 2018 after they accused three ladies, Williete Nyenwlah, Angeline Saydee and Florence Tarklay, for being responsible for the disappearance of a four-year-old child in Johnny Town, Normorpoe District, Sinoe County on December 12, 2018.

The three women were stripped  naked and paraded publicly  in the town and then taken to the society bush where they were allegedly tortured  and  sexually abused  with the men  inserting  sticks  into their private parts resulting to the death of one them, Williete, who was buried secretly  in a swampland.

The case was to be heard in Greenville Sinoe County but state prosecutors requested for a change of venue to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County based on what the prosecutors termed as due to local prejudice. 

As the case was called for trial this August 2019 Term and before the reading of the indictment to the defendants, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, entered a plea of Nolle Prosequoi (free) in favor of three co-defendants, Anthony Karmon Marshall Gballa and Shelton Kelgbeh for lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute them while the rest of the defendants were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges.

During the trial, the state produced five general witnesses including the two survivors and three rebuttal witnesses. 

While on the witness stand, two of the five co-defendants, Moses Solo and Alex Karpeh, described themselves as the “devil’s spokesperson” and the town crier of Jonny Town, respectively, though they denied the allegations but admitted been present and member of the country society that took custody of the victims.

 The two co-defendants said the deceased died after she was questioned by the country devil, who shouted at her and she allegedly dropped dead after she was transformed into a dragon and that her left eye was removed and given to her father who according to the defendants turned her over to the society people or country devil.

However, the other five co-defendants denied been members of the secret society and that they were not in Johnny Town when the incident occurred and that they were  arrested based on mistaken identity by the Liberia National Police. 

Their testimonies prompted the state lawyers to introduce the father of the deceased as one of its three rebuttal witnesses who denied been the head of the Zoe people and that it was him who turned his daughter over to the country devil to be penalized for been a “witch.” 

During the final legal argument, state lawyers argued that the defendants were under obligation to have brought in witnesses to prove their defense that they were arrested based on mistaken identity; but they miserably fail to do same while the Defense lawyer, Cllr. Paul Jarvan, counter argued that the state did not prove its allegation against the defendants.

The other defendants, who claimed that they were not in the town of the incident, did not produce witnesses to testify that they were not in the town when the incident occurred.

Source: Liberia: Court to Sentence 7 Defendants Found Guilty in Sinoe County Murder, Rape Case

Liberia: Jury finds 7 defendants guilty in Sinoe murder case

More news on the Sinoe murder case. My earlier postings on the murder case and trial of the ten defendants date from August 30 and August 31. However, newspaper articles are not consistent. The Bush Chicken reports ten defendants (see my August 30 posting) whereas FrontPageAfrica mentions nine defendants (see my August 31 posting). The FrontPageAfrica article does not mention the names of Dennis Pyne and Alex Karpeh (mentioned in The Bush Chicken article) whereas FP Africa mentions as one of the defendants a certain Shelton Kelgbeh whose name does not appear in The Bush Chicken article. Moreover names are not consistent (Sylvester Charty – The Bush Chicken – versus Sylvester T. Cherdy – FP Africa).

Be that as it may, the article below – originally published by The Bush Chicken – reports that a jury has found seven of the ten defendants guilty, including Moses Solo, Teah Gmawlue, Sylvester Charty, Dennis P. Pyne, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Alex Karpeh. The prosecution had abandoned its case against Marshall Gbala, Anthony Karmoh, and Swen Pyne for lack of evidence. 

An interesting fact is that Amos Nyewallah, the father of the murdered woman, Willette Nyewallah, was accused by one of the defendants of having ordered his daughter’s murder. Earlier during the trial, Moses Solo, one of the defendants, who acknowledged being a member of the traditional society which is allegedly involved, testified and accused Amos Nyewallah of being the acting traditional chairman of the district (Nomorpoe District, in Sinoe County, where Johnny Town – the ‘crime scene’ – is located). Moses Solo also accused Amos Nyewallah of having ordered his daughter’s murder (see my August 30 posting). Amos Nyewallah denied the accusation. He acknowledged being a member of the traditional society, but said he held no position in it and warned that Solo’s statements could damage his reputation. What emerges from Solo’s accusation and Nyewallah’s denial is that the traditional society somehow played a role in the murder of Willette Nyewallah. 

One of these days, judge Joe Barkon is expected to provide the final ruling, which will include the sentence the men who have been found guilty will face. 

To be continued (webmaster FVDK).

Featured photo by Sampson David

Published: August 31, 2019
By: Sampson David –  The Bush Chicken 

BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – A jury has found seven of the ten defendants guilty in the ongoing Sinoe murder and gang-rape case.

The case is being tried at the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Buchanan. The seven persons found guilty on August 30 include Moses Solo, Teah Gmawlue, Sylvester Charty, Dennis P. Pyne, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Alex Karpeh.

Prior to the case, the prosecution, led by assistant justice minister for litigation Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, abandoned its case against three of the co-defendants because of a lack of sufficient evidence. Those co-defendants were Marshall Gbala, Anthony Karmoh, and Swen Pyne.

The rest of the defendants pleaded not guilty to the multiple indictments.

The case stems from a December 12, 2018 incident where three women were stripped naked, paraded, and gang-raped in Johnny Town, Nomorpoe District, Sinoe. They were accused of witchcraft and one of the women, Willette Nyewallah, was murdered and buried secretly in a swamp in Johnny Town.

The defendants were charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal facilitation, and criminal conspiracy and the case was transferred to the Second Judicial Circuit Court to avoid interference from powerful members of the traditional society.

The case began on August 13, with the defendants represented by a team of public defenders led by Grand Bassa’s public defender, Paul Jarvan.

The final argument of the case between the prosecution and defense lawyers was held on August 30, with several women and human rights groups, as well as family members and residents of Sinoe and Grand Bassa in attendance.

After close to two hours of arguments presented by lawyers from both sides, the jurors were charged by Judge Joe Barkon to come up with a fair and transparent verdict based on the arguments, testimonies, and evidence provided.

Of the 15 jurors, 3 were told to remain in the court as alternative jurors while 12 went into a room to deliberate.

Upon their return, 10 of the 12 jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while 2 abstained.

The head of the defense counsel, Jarvan, took exception to the jurors’ verdict, adding that he expected five of the seven persons who are not members of the traditional society to have been set free.

“The indictment said traditional people and the father of the deceased came and said only two persons up there, Alex Carpeh and Moses Solo, are members of the traditional society,” he said.

“In keeping with our practice, whenever a verdict is handed down, once the defense is dissatisfied with that verdict, it is the right of the defense to except to that verdict,” Jarvan added. “In short, what we are saying is that we are not satisfied because we provided our laws, we argued and prepared our memorandum and all the laws that we rely on they are all our legal memorandum.”

Jarvan said the defense counsel will file in a motion for a new trial and if denied, they will take exception to the final judgment.

He added that if the final judgment comes against his clients, he may appeal to the Supreme Court.

Jarvan can file a motion for retrial within five days, which could be denied by the judge.

Next week, the judge is expected to provide the final ruling, which will indicate the likely sentence the men may face.

Source: Jury Finds 7 Defendants Guilty in Sinoe Murder and Gang Rape Case

Liberia: Sinoe County ‘Witchcraft Case’ transferred to Grand Bassa County

Yesterday I posted an article Liberia: ‘Devils’ and ‘Deagons’ – defendant details victim’s death.  While searching the internet for more news concerning this case I stumbled upon this Front Page Africa article (dated June 12, 2019). It contains no specific new developments, but provides nonetheless some valuable information which I do not want to withhold the readers (webmaster FVDK).

Assistant Justice Minister Wesseh A. Wesseh

Published: June 12, 2019
By: Front Page Africa

Monrovia – The much-publicized “witchcraft case” in Sinoe County involving nine defendants – all men – has been transferred from Greenville to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County for trial.

The nine defendants are charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, and criminal facilitation in connection with the humiliation of three ladies accused of witchcraft activities in that part of the country.

Assistant Justice Minister For Litigation at the Ministry of Justice, Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh told FrontPAgeAfrica Tuesday, June 11, that the Government of Liberia has decided to prioritize the prosecution of the nine Defendants and assured the public that everything will be done to ensure the Defendants get a free, fair and transparent trial.

Cllr. Wesseh then frowned on individuals bent on engaging in “jungle justice,” stating that trial by ordeal was outlawed by the Supreme Court since 1916, adding that it has no place for “contemporary society like Liberia”.

Those nine Defendants from Sinoe County that were transferred over the weekend to the Buchanan Central Prison to face trial during the current May 2019 Term of Court are: Moses Solo Jr, Shelton Kelgbeh, Teah Gmawlue, Marshall Gbala, Anthony Karmoh: others are Tweh Keglbeh, Wilson Pyne, alias Swen Pyne, Victor Solo, and Sylvester T. Cherdy.

The defendants were indicted early this year by the Grand Jury of the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court sitting in the provincial capital, Greenville Sinoe County.

Source: Sinoe County ‘Witchcraft Case’ Transferred To Grand Bassa County

Liberia: ‘Devils’ and ‘Dragons’ – defendant details victim’s death

The case presented below refers to a posting of early this year, on January 26, entitled More women in ritualistic killings in Sinoe County (published by The New Dawn, January 25, 2019). As noted in the article below it is a bizar, strange story and there is no proof that any of the defendants in the murder trial speaks the truth. However, the trial clearly establishes that traditional societies in which witchcraft and juju medicine play an important role still exist in Liberia. It is only one step further to the criminal practices of ritualistic killings. Did the father of the late Willette Nyewallah make this step?

We may never know the answer. However, we will continue to follow up on this story and, in case new developments occur, will inform you accordingly (webmaster FVDK).

Featured photo by Sampson David

Published: August 29, 2019
By: Sampson David – The Bush Chicken

BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – A suspect in the Sinoe gang rape and murder trial has testified in court, accusing the father of the late Willette Nyewallah of ordering his daughter’s murder.

Moses Solo is one of ten suspects the government is trying for torturing and gang-raping three women accused of witchcraft and murdering one of them.

Solo, who acknowledged being a member of the traditional society and called himself the spokesperson for the ‘devil,’ testified last week accusing the victim’s father, Amos Nyewallah, of being the acting traditional chairman of the district.

He said when the three women were turned over to the traditional society because they had been accused of witchcraft, Amos Nyewallah called the devil to come take the women away. The town crier then asked all those around to go indoors, he said.

Solo said once all townspeople were indoor, the devil took the three women to the boundaries of the town. He said it was then that Amos Nyewallah ordered the devil to take away his daughter and extract a body part of hers to use in ritual to solidify his position within the traditional society.

“He told us that he wanted something from his daughter’s body to correct his medicine because the position he currently occupies is someone else’s position, but the person was suspended and if the suspended traditional chairman pays his fine, he could come back to his position,” Solo explained, noting that the victim’s father asked for her left eye.

In a bizarre twist of an already strange tale, Solo said the pain brought on by the removal of the victim’s eye drove her to get angry and she transformed into a dragon to attack the devil. Provoked, the devil then knocked the victim down, killing her. Solo said she was buried near a small creek at 6:30 p.m.

Although activities occurring within the traditional society are meant to be completely secret, Solo said he could not hide anything because the matter has reached to the court.

He also claimed that members of the traditional society were less likely to have raped the women because a traditional law had been passed by the devil that would fine anyone found guilty of rape US$50 and one bag of rice.

He said the two survivors do not know the identities of their rapists, but he knows them. Solo added that of all the suspects on trial, only he and Alex Carpeh, who was also on trial, were members of the traditional society.

On Tuesday, August 27, Amos Nyewallah, the victim’s father, took the witness stand to deny Solo’s allegations that he ordered his own daughter’s death.

While he acknowledged being a member of the traditional society, he said he held no position there and warned that Solo’s statements could damage his reputation.

Nyewallah noted that he worked through the commissioner’s office as chairman of Nomorpoe District, where he is responsible for settling disputes between residents and the Golden Veroleum concession company.

Nyewallah further said he was not present when the incident occurred, but when he returned, he went on the scene at about 6:00 p.m. to where the women were being held to ask the traditional people to release his daughter. His request was, however, refused.

Nyewallah said he then went to the commissioner to complain, but the commissioner told him to continue to plead with the traditional people.

The following day, Nyewallah said he was informed by one of the survivors, Florence Tarkleh, that his daughter had been killed and buried. He said when that happened, family members of the defendants took large sums of money to him to appease him over the death of his daughter, but he told them that the matter was now before the government.

For his part, the district commissioner of Nonorpoe, Alfred Jawolo, corroborated Nyewallah’s story that the victim’s father attempted to get the district commissioner to assist in releasing his daughter.

On the first day of the trial of the case, the Criminal Services Department commander for Sinoe, Joseph Doeplay, also testified that Amos Nyewallah had reported to the police that his daughter was being beaten along with two others. Doeplay said it was because of Nyewallah’s complaint that the suspects were charged and sent to court.

Meanwhile, the court has jailed a man for interfering in the trial by signaling to defendants who have been testifying. Dickson Brown, a resident of Greenville, Sinoe, was first caught signaling to defendants on August 19 when the defendants first began testifying. However, he was pardoned by the court based on the intervention of authorities from Sinoe who were also watching the trial.

The next day, Brown repeated his actions, prompting the court to charge him with contempt of court. He was placed behind bars at the Upper Buchanan Prison Compound from August 20 until August 27. After he was released, authorities directed him to avoid the premises of the Second Judicial Circuit Court until the case has ended.

Source: ‘Devils’ and ‘Dragons’ – Sinoe Gang Rape Case Progresses as Defendant Details Victim’s Death

Liberia: ‘Ritual killings’ spark riot in Kingsville, Montserrado County

Is it a coincidence? In June 2019 two boys disappeared in Kingsville, Montserrado County, and were found back ‘with several parts missing’ – a common formulation used when a ritualistic murder is suspected. Montserrado County was preparing for elections to be held the following month, on July 29. By-elections were slated to fill the vacancies created by the deaths of senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff, and District #15 representative Adolph Akwe Lawrence.

Is there any relation between the by-elections and the ritualistic death of the two boys, Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10? 

It is too gruesome to think that the by-elections have anything to do with the suspected ritual murder of the two boys. Moreover, according to one of the residents, Fayiah Dumbo, ritual killing is rampant in their town and – when it happens – the police usually claims the lack of sufficient evidence as a basis to drop charges against suspects involved in ritual killing.

The history of ritualistic murders in Liberia goes back a very long time but we are now living in the 3rd millennium. When will the Liberian Government take adequate measures to arrest the culprits of these heinous crimes and stop the killing of innocent people? Or are indeed ‘big shots’ involved who manage to escape from justice? 

When will it end?  (Website editor FVDK)

rmed police on the scene in Kingsville Number 7 Community and fired several rounds of ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, who retaliated by throwing stones at the police.

Published: Jun 25, 2019
By: Joaquin M. Sendolo – The Daily Observer

Angry residents block Kakata-Monrovia highway, as Police fire live rounds to disperse crowd

Number 7 Kingsville, Montserrado County, was a scene of rioting on Monday, June 24, 2019 when aggrieved citizens of the town gathered and blocked the main road from Red-Light to Kakata in demand for justice for two boys, Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and later killed allegedly for ritual purposes early this month.

It began without violence during the morning hours when local residents blocked the traffic in what they said was an attempt to draw the government’s attention to perceived injustice given what they see as the lack of appropriate Police response to the killing of the two boys; later, it turned violent when a few officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) sent to contain the situation began using force to disperse the demonstrators to restore the free flow of traffic.

The demonstrators were holding aloft placards bearing inscriptions that read, “We want justice,” as they occupied the middle of the road with themselves and abandoned pieces of timber and metallic objects used to set up the roadblock.

According to eyewitness accounts, the police at first spoke to the aggrieved residents to allow the free movement of vehicular traffic, but they refused.

“If we will die like the children who were killed, we will die; but we cannot leave this place until justice is done,” they declared.

Following the failure of the Police to convince the protesters to disperse, they regrouped and advanced towards the protesters in a tactical move, which succeeded in dispersing them. As the LNP officers attempted to remove the roadblocks, they were greeted by a hail of stones and other flying objects, which provoked the discharge of firearms (AK-47s) using live ammunition.

“While responding officers of the LNP were trying to remove the road blocks and illegal checkpoints from the Kakata Highway,” said a statement signed by LNP director of public affiars, H. Moses Carter, “they were stiffly resisted with stone throwing protestors and the use of other dangerous weapons including steel rods and petrol bombs which resulted in the injuries of three residents of Kingsville including: Saah Saah, 18, Dave Mombo, 18, and Abraham Tumba, 17 years old, all of the same community. Also, two officers, namely: Insp. Morris Dahn, and Sgt. Gbornimah Barmabia sustained head and leg injuries. Those who sustained injuries are said to be responding to treatment at the Du-Side Hospital in Margibi County and the John F. Kennedy Medical hospital in Monrovia.”

An eyewitness report says one person identified as Abraham Smith was shot dead in the incident, while another suggests that he was instead shot and severely wounded in leg but was not killed. Both reports are yet to be independently confirmed. It was, however, confirmed that a stone hit one of the police officers and he was seriously injured in his face.

The LNP says it has “launched an immediate joint investigation comprising the Professional Standards Division (PSD) and the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to probe into reports of shooting. The public can be assured that any officer found culpable in the unconventional use of lethal weapon will be made to face the full weight of the law.”

After hours of rioting, the few police officers left the scene thus, leaving the aggrieved residents in total control of the road until some senior police officers accompanied by reinforcements from Monrovia arrived and contained the situation. This led to resumption of the flow of traffic at about 2:56 p.m.

Fayiah Dumbo, an elderly man living in Number 7, explained that early this month the two boys, whose brutal killing sparked the riot, were abducted and taken to the bush at the outskirts of the town and were killed on land belonging to another resident he did not name.

“They took the two boys, one 9 and the other 10, down the town in the bush and killed them. The doers skinned one of them and cut the private parts, and they took the nose, lip and one eye of the other boy along with his kidneys,” Fayiah said.

According to the LNP statement, the bodies of the two children were discovered on June 3, 2019 in the bushes of Kingsville, Montserrado County, after they were sent on Thursday, May 30 and Friday, May 31, 2019 by their parents to sell but did not return home and were declared missing.

When the corpses of the victims were discovered, Fayiah said forensic examinations were done and four persons were arrested that included three prime suspects and the owner of the land on which the bodies were discovered. He explained further that the three arrested suspects, all men, were released and residents expressed concern that their release was done by the police and not the court.

“The police people came and gave us a paper that the bodies should be buried and that was done, but the three people are freed without facing justice in the court except this old papay who is still in jail because it is behind his house the act was done. This is why we are here today because we want the three men rearrested to face justice in the court and not the police to decide,” Fayiah said.

Fayiah said they will only be content if the men go through court trial and exonerate themselves, but their release from detention without the court’s mandate constitutes injustice and they will not stop their protest action until they can get redress.

According to him, ritual killing (otherwise known as heart-man activity) is rampant in their town and, when it happens, the government (police) usually claims the lack of sufficient evidence as a basis to drop charges against suspects involved in ritual killing.

“I have spent 15 years here, and since I came there have been many heart-man cases that ended like this,” he said.

The riot in Number 7, Kingsville, is the second of such violent incidents recently on this trunk of paved motor road leading to the country’s interior. It can be recalled that on April 1, riot broke out between the police and aggrieved residents of Weala over ritual killing and the police depot was burned while the house of the accused was damaged in part.

Source: ‘Ritual Killings’ Spark Riot in Kingsville

Liberia: ritualistic killings spark mob action in Maryland County (2005 article)

There are so many reports on ritualistic killings in Liberia, one should almost lose track. Below is another article, dating from 2005, on ritualistic murders in Maryland County, perhaps the most notorious region of Liberia as far as ritual murders are concerned. (webmaster FVDK)

Hanging of Convicted Ritual Killers (‘Harper Seven’) in Harper City, Maryland County (1979) – Picture by FVDK Fred van der Kraaij

Published: January 27, 2005
By Josephus Moses Gray – The Perspective 

Some panic-stricken inhabitants of the southeastern county of Maryland, mainly in Harper city, over the weekend took the law into their hands when they staged a violent protest over the wave of ritualistic killings which has re-surfaced in the area.

The county is noted for ritualistic killings, despite serious actions taken over the years by the Liberian government – by putting perpetrators to death by hanging while giving others lengthy prison sentences.

According to latest report emerging from the county, hundreds of angry residents came out to protest the alleged failure of the appropriate security apparatus to curtail the wave of ritualistic killings in the county.

During the violence demonstration staged by the youth of the county, several persons were victimized while several business houses and private homes were reportedly attacked and looted by the mobs. Liberia’s Justice Minister, Cllr. Kabineh Ja’neh told journalists in Monrovia this week that the mobs attacked the National Police Headquarters on Green Street in Harper and released several prisoners sentenced for various crimes.

The Justice Minister explained further that the mobs ransacked the Harper Police headquarters and flogged two detainees severely. The two victims, according to minister, have been accused of being involved in the ritualistic killing in the county.

In order to restore calm in the area, the transitional government has imposed a dust to dawn curfew in the county, while at the same time the government has instituted a thorough probe into circumstances that led to the mob action.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative in Liberia, Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein told journalists in Monrovia that the UN Mission in Liberia is carefully studying the situation in the county.

According to the UN diplomat, UN peacekeepers are on standby to move into the county should the situation continue in an effort to help ensure the safety and security of the people of Maryland. Warning the residents to remain in doors during he curfew which run from 6: PM to 6:AM daily, ambassador Klein said UNMIL will provide full security for the people of the county.

The situation in the past led to severe punishment administered against convicted sons and daughters of the county, with some of them being publicly hanged to death, while others were given long prison sentences. Among those hanged were the former Superintendent of the County, James Anderson, Jr., Allen Yancy, Francis Nyepan, Philip Seton, Oldman Barclay and Madam Wreh Tarnyonoh, just to name few. They were hanged on 17th February 1979 during the regime of the late President William R. Tolbert, Jr. after a guilty verdict was brought down against them for killing a popular Kru traditional singer Moses Tweh.

Similar situation re-emerged in 1986 and took away the lives of two little kids in the county. Those connected to the act include former NDPL county chairman, David Clark, Alfred Davies, Jasper Bedell, Gbason Toe and one Gardner. They were arrested and brought to Monrovia where they were sentenced to prolong detention while under going investigation.

Another 200 persons were round-up by the former Superintendent of the county now Minister of Internal affairs, Minister H. Dan Morais for the mysterious death of Lt. Alphonso Chalde, former employee of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN).

Source: Ritualistic Killings Spark Mob Action in Maryland