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At Court Martial!

Plans to ‘behead President Koroma’s junior brother’ revealed

By Alusine Sesay

President Ernest Bai Koroma

President Ernest Bai Koroma

The 10th prosecution witness in the ongoing Court Martial trial of 14 alleged mutineers, Memunatu Conteh, yesterday testified that the eighth accused – Private Alpha Mansaray – allegedly told her that he was among the group of soldiers assigned to arrest certain individuals, including President Koroma’s junior brother, the Deputy Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources and the elder sister of the President, and to behead and bury their remains in Makeni and later showcase the severed heads to the President in Freetown.

Prior to her testimony, Principal State Prosecutor, Gerald Soyei, applied for leave to be granted the 10th prosecution witness to testify behind a screen for her personal safety and security and close family members.

Soyei told the court the witness had informed him that during and after the investigation in 2013, missiles were thrown at her residence in Makeni, which he said frightened her and made it difficult to trace her to testify in court.

The application was vehemently objected by the lead defence counsel, Julius N. Cuffie, on the grounds that such application was unfounded in law as the prosecution did not furnish the court with any authority.

He argued that it is a cardinal principle of law that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done, adding: “It is one of the pillars of justice that transparency prevails in the dispensation of justice without fear or favour. If the prospective witness knows that what he or she says to the court is the truth, he or she has no cause to fear. Unless this witness is not sure of what he or she has to say to this court, then and only then he or she should be in trepidation or fear.”

He cited section 23(3) Act No. 6 of the 1991 Constitution and Section 91(1) of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Act of 1961 to substantiate his argument against the application by the prosecution.

Having listened to both submissions, Judge Advocate Otto During ruled in favour of the defence, thus prompting the witness to testify in the open.

The witness, whose testimony was translated by Captain Gogra, said the seventh accused – Private Gbessay Koroma – whom she said usually passed by her residence at 9 Teko Veterinary in Makeni on his way to fetch firewood, on a date in July, 2013, met her at her house and  promised to share a certain information with her.

She testified that Private Koroma proposed love to her and that she questioned the accused as to whether such was the only talk he had for her.

“He told me that should I move outside to meet him, he has something private to tell me. He warned me not to tell anybody whatever he would tell me. He informed me that they were on a particular mission known as ‘Operation Awareness’,” she testified.

The witness further told the court that she questioned the accused as to the meaning of the operation, and he replied that their seniors were not aware, the reason they called the mission ‘Operation Awareness’.

“I asked him as to whether they wanted to overthrow and he replied in the negative. But he told me that Kailahun, Pujehun, Kenema and Bo were all alert and that they already had vehicles whose headlights, windscreens and park lights would be smashed and used to  head for Freetown,” she alleged.

Memunatu Conteh further testified that the seventh accused informed her that they would arrest some people whom they would torture and give urine to drink.

“He told me that some people’s heads would be chopped off and their remains buried in Makeni. Their chopped-off heads would be taken to Freetown and shown to President Koroma,” she said. “I asked him as to whether they were capable to undertake such a mission, and he told me that they were not alone but had men at Murray Town, Cockerill, Wilberforce and Benguema who would reinforce them.”

According to her, she told the seventh accused that she was afraid and that the accused consoled her to be courageous and further revealed to her that they had plan to arrest President Koroma and torture him.

She said the seventh accused disclosed to her that they planned to undertake the mission on 10th August, 2013 but that the man in charge of the arms store was not present, thus the reason it was postponed to 15th August, 2013.

She said the seventh accused bemoaned the fact that they were not being supplied with better uniforms, and were paid low salaries, while their quarters were in bad shape with poor roofing.

The witness narrated similar details for both the seventh and eighth accused persons, noting that she disclosed both conversations to her husband, who advised her to encourage the former so that he could make more revelation to her.

Meanwhile, the Judge Advocate had earlier ruled in favour of the prosecution with regards tendering the statement of the second accused person, Frederick Johnson.

The matter was adjourned to 22nd August.