Lawyer says arrest ‘highhanded’
NOVEMBER 5, 2014 By Patrick J. Kamara & Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Executive Director of Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI) yesterday condemned the arrest of David Tam-Baryoh, presenter of the popular ‘Monologue’ program on Citizen Radio, describing the act as “highhanded”.
Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai told Concord Times in a telephone interview that eradicating the Ebola virus disease should be the concern of all instead of attempts to suppress citizens’ fundamental human rights, such as freedom of expression of journalists and civil society activists.
“It is very highhanded. In a situation like this, we should concentrate on fighting Ebola rather than suppress freedom of expression,” the lawyer and rights activist said.
However, he was quick to add that: “The constitution gives free expression in Section 25, but Section 29 gives power to the president to declare a state of emergency and during this period, the president can curtail some of your rights.”
The human rights activist questioned the independence of the police with regards the arrest of the journalist, stating that although the country is in a state of emergency, law enforcement agents should not just arrest anybody without a reason.
Tam-Baryoh was arrested late Monday evening by a joint team of plain cloth and armed police men at his Eagle FM studios located at Tengbeh Town, west of Freetown. He spent the night at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) before he was yesterday transferred to the maximum security prison on Pademba Road.
According to head of Crime Management at the CID headquarters, Ibrahim ‘Size Man’ Koroma, they acted on an “executive detention warrant” authorized by President Koroma.
He told Concord Times that the arrest and detention of the veteran journalist does not require further investigation, the reason he has not been charged to court but instead taken to prison.
“We only executed a warrant of detention from ‘orders from above’ and it is not mandating for us to investigate Dr. Baryoh because the warrant does not indicate such. We did what the warrant permitted us to do and we have transferred him to the Pademba prisons,” he said.
Mr. Koroma confirmed that Dr. Tam-Baryoh had persistently complained about his health while being detained at the CID headquarters. He said he was allowed to call his doctor – Dr. James Russell – who confirmed the detainee was battling with high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone Association Journalists yesterday issued a press release which said they were “deeply worried about the health condition” of the detained journalist. The release said the journalist is hypertensive and that his blood pressure had risen to “hypertensive emergency”, quoting Dr. Russell, who is reported to have examined him while at the CID.
SLAJ President Kevin Lewis opined that, “Even under a State of Emergency, we must ensure the basic human rights of individuals are respected”, in an apparent reference to emergency regulations under which the journalist was arrested, which gives the president sweeping powers to order the arrest and detention of individuals without trial for at least thirty days.