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Sierra Leone court revokes bail for outspoken opposition politician

  • Jesmed Suma

By Kemo Cham

A magistrate court in Freetown has revoked a bail granted to an outspoken opposition politician fighting sedition charges.

Magistrate Dr Binneh Kamara of Court No.1 accused Jesmed Foday-Mami Suma of contempt of court for which he rescinded his 28 March decision to grant him bail.

The accused was also thrown back to jail at the central prison in Freetown and the case adjourned to 2 June.

Suma, a leading member of the newly-formed National Progressive Democrats (NPD), was initially detained on 24 March during a bloody nationwide student demonstration. He was accused of incitement and subsequently charged on two counts of sedition and disorderly conduct.

Following his release on bail he appeared in court at least three times with no one to preside over his matter. The opposition politician apparently became frustrated with the recurrent absence of the magistrate and the continuous adjournment of his case.

Recently he granted an interview with the local media accusing the presiding magistrate of deliberately delaying his matter. Suma also strongly criticised the country’s courts system calling it “corrupt”. He also accused it of “mortgaging” the rights of powerless citizens to the powerful, thereby suppressing “dissenting voices against the present government.”

He said politicians were using the judiciary to silence the democratic voices of the people.

Suma’s bail conditions entailed that his passport be confiscated and must make himself available to the court every three days.

The US-based politician-cum-businessman also lamented the effect this delay in his trial had caused him and his businesses.  

“I’m speaking against corruption which is stinking in the justice system and Magistrate Binneh Kamara has proved that he lacks the moral and the ethical values to uphold the Constitution of Sierra Leone,” he appears to say in the interview, an audio recording of which was widely shared on social media.

“The courtroom is now a playground to buy and sell the rights of the poor,” he went on.

Magistrate Kamara, during hearing of the case on Thursday 25 May, accused the NPD politician of contempt of the Court. He also said that he would file a private lawsuit against the politician for allegedly defaming his character.

Magistrate Kamara was quoted in a previous hearing on 12 May as saying in open court that he would teach the accused a lesson for his comments.

“Some People don’t know how to behave in public places, but I will deal with him. Go and tell him that I will lock him up pursuant to Section 17 of the Sierra Leone Constitution of 1991,” the Concord Times quoted him as saying.

Suma is the co-founder and Director of Policy and Membership of the NPD party which says it seeks “to unite” a country it says has been divided along ethnic and regional lines by “corrupt” politicians.

The party had its application approved in February by the Political Parties’ Registration Commission to operate, and plans to put up a presidential candidate in next year’s elections.

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