Liberia: Solicitor General’s Private Meeting with ‘Star Witness’ Joseph Boakai Raises Suspicion of Settlement

MONROVIA – The disclosure of the Solicitor General, Cllr. Seyma Syrennius Cephus, that he had an agreement with former Vice President Joseph Boakai to testify against his compatriot, Alexander B. Cummings, in the ongoing Framework Document alteration case has left many with the belief that there may have been some settlement between the Solicitor General and the former Vice President.

According to Cllr. Cephus, he placed a call to Amb. Boakai on April 29 to seek his permission for a subpoena to be served on him “and he graciously accepted my suggestion and advised that I should see him. After a few clearances here and there so that my action is not misconstrued by mischief makers, I got the permission to see the first-ever high-quality Subpoena witness in the juridical history of a magisterial court.”

Cllr. Cephus, however, did not disclose the discussion he and the former Vice President had after his request for them to meet in person.

It was after this meeting that the Unity Party issued a press statement to disclose that their standard-bearer had received a subpoena to testify in the ongoing trial on the allegation of the CPP Framework Document tampering. Amb. Boakai had previously failed to receive two previous subpoena for the same trial.

Cllr. Cephus stated that he was highly praised by his star witness as being a legal dexterity and a walking dictionary of the law.

According to Cllr. Cephus, the Former Vice President indicated his willingness to be a government witness against Cummings who had challenged him for the right to lead the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), a collaboration of four registered political parties, from which Boakai recently announced the withdrawal of his Unity Party.

Cephus wrote that Boakai told him that “his appearance was not a problem but that I should assure him that he would be treated as a Subpoena witness only”, the Weah-led government Chief Prosecutor revealed. Cllr. Cephas said he assured the UP Leader that “I will personally receive him at the entrance of the court when he shows up, and which I did.”

However, legal pundits have raised eyebrows over Cllr. Cephus disclosure and question by Amb. Boakai had who affirmed the allegation against Cummings would have a private discussion with the Solicitor General before agreeing to serve as subpoena witness.

“By this Cephus is publicly clearly admitting to a deal being struck with JNB to have him subpoenaed. It speaks of collusion. More worrying is Cephus’s revelation that JNB referred to him as a “walking dictionary of the law”. i.e. affirming or condoning the judicial misconduct and excesses of Cephus. Assuming that Cephus’s revelation is true, is JNB tacitly approving of harassment of the opposition by Cephus such as the continuous closure of punch FM, the arrest of Mo Ali, my political prosecution etc. What moral grounds will JNB or UP have to call out Cephus, an extreme loyalist of Weah, should Cephas mistreat him in court, especially so that the NEC case is before the Supreme Court and the MoJ by law might be called to defend the government interest through NEC?” an observe noted.

On January 3, 2022, the Liberian Government issued a writ of arrest on Alexander Cummings on the complaint of Benoni Urey’s All Liberian Party (ALP) which announced its withdrawal from the CPP a few days earlier, on December 23, 2021.  The ALP complained that Cummings, and two other leaders of the ANC included a withdrawal penalty clause in their nearly two-year-old Framework Agreement before filing it with the National Elections Commission (NEC), which they claimed to have been “unresolved”.

Although the Unity Party has adhered to the Framework Agreement including becoming its eight-month rotational leader on October 15, 2021, on February 16 2022, the UP informed the NEC through a December 20, 2021 Resolution that it had withdrawn from the CPP calling the Framework Agreement “a product of fraud” because the party “did not sign”.

The UP asked the NEC to register its candidate in the May 10 Senatorial By-election in its stronghold of Lofa, which the ANC and the Liberty Party, two other member-parties of the CPP, objected to. Consistent with the Framework Agreement, the NEC denied the UP for which an appeal has been taken to the Supreme Court of Liberia.

Article 8.5.1 of the Framework Agreement forbids a member party from fielding candidates in their name after withdrawing from the CPP. The UP is contending that this provision violates its right to associate or refuse to associate in political parties consistent with Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution. The ANC and the LP counter-argued that Article 25 obligates the UP and the ALP in the enforcement of the legal contractual obligations to which they freely entered and from which they have publicly benefited.

Recently, the Solicitor-General informed that the writ of arrest for Cummings was initially ordered quashed but was reissued by “his boss” the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Musa Dean. Cllr. Dean denied the claims and requested the Solicitor-General to submit the evidence in his possession to his office. He also publicly criticized “grandstanding” in the business of prosecution.

In the twists and turns of the ongoing trial, the prosecution admitted to “inadvertently” extracting and suppressing evidence reported to be favorable to establishing the innocence of Cummings and undermining the basis of the charges prompting the defense to raise claims of “prosecutorial misconduct”.

But in his latest broadcast text message boasting of his high-profile witness capture just as the deadline for the submission of the evidence is expiring, the Solicitor-General said, “many people including those within this government who have their loyalty straddled across the political divide in hopes that when the political dynamic changes they will be greeted for playing ‘smart’ had already termed the Alexander B Cummings trial as a “circus”, claiming that there is no evidence and that I will find it difficult if not impossible to produce the quality of witnesses needed to prove the case.”

Prior to their private meeting, former Vice President Joseph Boakai had reportedly made himself unavailable to be severed a subpoena requested by the prosecution. Assured by the Chief Prosecutor he turned up on Monday ready to help the government prosecute Cummings. His testimony has been pushed to Wednesday. May 4, at 10am.

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