May 26, 2020
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
There was a huge drama in court last Friday, May 22, as Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden, a strong figure in the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) chose to represent herself at the maiden hearing of seditious libel and defamation charges pressed against her by the state.
Dr. Blyden, together with Hussain Muckson Sesay, a child and youth activist, appeared before Magistrate Hannah Bonnie presiding at Freetown Court No.1 to answer to ten count charges ranging from seditious libel, publication of false news, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, doing an act tending to pervert the course of justice to defamatory libel, among others.
According to the State Prosecutor, Adrian Fisher, the first accused, Sylvia Bladen, on 23rd April, 2020, published defamatory news on her Facebook page against the state and President Julius Maada Bio.
He further alleges that the second accused Hussain Muckson Sesay took a picture of the first accused and published it with the intention to pervert the course of justice.
Making a bail application after the prosecutor had informed the court that he was instructed to seek for an adjournment, lead defence counsel for the second accused,Melron Nicol-Wilson, noted that, his client is a third year Engineering student at Fourah Bay College, thus he didn’t pose any flight risk and has credible sureties to enter into his recognisance.
He said the only crime allegedly committed by his client was taking photo of the first accused, adding that his client had only gone to the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters to deliver food for the first accused when he was arrested.
Addressing the court, the first accused, who represented herself, sought permission to examine on oath the bail objection affidavit tendered to the court by the prosecution, noting that some of the things mentioned in the said affidavit were not true.
Whilst in the witness box on oath, the first accused told the court that she fell sick severely while in custody at the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters and her counsel pressed on the police for her to be granted bail, but at no point she was granted bail.
She said it was stated in the affidavit that she was given the opportunity to be put on bail, but she declined.
She said at the time of her arrest, she was having her handbag which contained a lot of items including her passport.
She said the other items in the bag were given to her, but that the handbag and the passport were never given to her as stated in the affidavit of objection that, she refused to tender her passport to the police.
She said she at no point in time refused the orders of the police throughout the investigation, noting that at some point she was placed in solitary confinement without food and water.
Dr. Blyden said she later became seriously sick, adding that when the police wanted to search her home for the second time she called her counsel one Ibrahim Mansaray to accompany her, but the Head of CID molested her counsel seriously.
In her ruling, Magistrate Bonnie said she had listened to the bail application for the second accused and has also gone through the affidavit of opposition and the response of the first accused.
The magistrate refused to put both accused on bail, citing the seriousness of the charges.
She told the court that she would like to listen to the evidence firs before considering the issue of bail.
Matter was adjourned to 28th May for continuation.