In July this year, the Liberian government arrested General Charles Julu and George Koukou, the former speaker of the Interim National Assembly of Liberia and charged them with plotting to overthrow the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Now the government’s star witness, retired Colonel Andrew Dorbor, appeared in court this week saying the government forced him to be part of a concocted coup plot.
He said government agents tortured him into confess the names of alleged coup plotters. Colonel Dorbor also said government officials promised him money and what he called a package from President Sirleaf in exchange for his cooperation. So what happens now to the case against the so-called coup plotters?
Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He told VOA that the government’s treason case remains strong.
“What the government has said to the world and to the Liberian people several months ago regarding this planned subversion that a few people, including General Charles Julue and others have planned is real. Colonel Andrew Dorbor had been cooperating with our National Security Agency and had shared information that we have proved is right and fair. It is unfortunate now that he will say the contrary. But the evidence would be proven in court,” he said.
Colonel Dorbor told the court Monday that the government forced him to sign a document saying he was a state witness. But Bropleh said the government of President Sirleaf adheres to democratic principles and does not torture people.
“The government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is not a government that has a repetitive behavior as previous governments. We do not coerce anyone to sign documents against their will. This government ascribes to the principles of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and I can tell you emphatically that this government did not force Col. Andrew Dorbor to say anything against his will. It is unfortunate that he has now changed his statement. But the fact of the matter remains that we were able, with our own intelligence and that of the gathering capacity of our colleagues in the Ivory Coast to uncover a plan to subvert the peace in Liberia,” Bropleh said.
He said the arrest of the so-called coup plotters was not based solely on information provided by Col. Dorbor.
“The arrests of these persons were not made principally on the statement of Col. Dorbor. There were gatherings of intelligence, verification of evidence, and so there is a kaleidoscope of information and evidence that has come forward that the government is going to use in this prosecution. Col. Dorbor’s statement can carry water or it may not carry water. It is unfortunate that he’s now changed his statement after all these months of believing and sharing with us that he was trying to help his country by sharing with us that there were those who wanted to subvert the peace,” he said.
Bropleh said the Liberian government has strong evidence against the alleged coup plotters.
He also said the government did not immediately react to Col. Dorbor’s testimony because the government believes its actions are what the minister called honest and fair.
“If you had not contacted me I was not going to speak on this because we know that what the government has done is honest, and it’s fair,” he said.
Just this week, the Liberian government was forced to react to criticism of President Sirleaf’s nomination of a controversial Washington-based lawyer to be the commissioner of the country’s maritime bureau.
Bropleh said these likely political and judicial missteps by the Sirleaf government are part of rebuilding a country after years of war.
“When you’re rebuilding a nation after 14 years of civil war, what I can tell you is that we don’t have a perfect judicial system, but in the absence of a perfect judicial system, we are striving to reform the judiciary and to create judges and lawyers that will ascribe to the principle of democracy and defend the constitution. What we have shared with the public regarding the treason trial is true, it’s right, we will try it in the courts system. If the court system says these people are not guilty, the government will respect that; if they are found guilty, they’ll face the full weight of the law,” Bropleh said.