LIBERIA: Detained FPA Publisher’s Legal Team Craves For Reconciliation

A member of detained FrontPage Africa Publisher legal team has finally announced that the legal team is now prepared to meet Dr. Chris Toe in order to reconcile as was earlier requested by the former Agriculture Minister.

Addressing a major news conference at the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia Thursday, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods said his team was now ready to discuss with Dr. Toe in order to give way for the release of their client who has been in detention for nearly two week now.

“We are prepared to discuss with Dr. Toe, and see reason for the resolution of the ongoing crisis between him and the FrontPage Africa publisher,” Atty Woods in a rather relaxed state of mind told journalists during the conference.

But in his press conference early this week, Dr. Toe expressed uncertainty over his willingness to receive the amount of US$1.5 million in libel damages from the jailed Managing Editor of the Front Page Africa (FPA) Newspaper, Mr. Rodney Sieh.  He said the award of US$1.5 million came from the court's ruling, and therefore without the money, he will still continue to live his life.

It can be recalled that in 2009, the FPA ran series of articles, accusing Toe of embezzling agriculture ministry funds. But Toe claimed that the newspaper got its acts wrong and therefore defamed him.

Following the publication of those articles, Toe sued the FPA at the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice for US$1.5million in libel damages. The Temple of Justice is situated on Capitol Hill, Monrovia.

On 20 August, a judge ordered the newspaper's closure and the detention of its Managing Editor, Mr. Rodney Sieh pending payment. But Mr. Sieh was subsequently jailed at the Monrovia Central Prison after he said he would not pay.

The Supreme Court of Liberia, which is regarded as the final arbiter of justice, had earlier upheld the civil law court's decision for him to pay former agriculture minister Toe US$1.5m in libel damages.

Mr. Sieh had repeatedly stated that he had done no wrong and vowed not to apologize even if it causes him to remain in jail for life. He had long expressed lack of confidence in the country's judicial system, asserting that it is not credible.

Accordingly, a week following his imprisonment, the FPA boss got ill and was subsequently rushed to the John F. Kennedy(JFK) Memorial Hospital in Sinkor, Monrovia for treatment by prison guards and some officers of the United Nations Mission in Liberia(UNMIL).

According to reports, Liberian journalist Sieh was rushed to hospital after had developed a strong fever due to cold while in prison. When the fever developed, the detained Liberian journalist was trembling and was unable to control himself, a situation which made the prison authorities and UNMIL officers to rush him to the hospital, said the reports.

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