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Liberia's Gyude Bryant to Plead Not Guilty in Court

The former chairman of Liberia’s National Transitional Government goes to court Monday to answer charges he stole more than a million dollars during his tenure from October 2003 to January 2006. Charles Gyude Bryant was arrested Friday (December 7) for failing to appear in court twice, a violation of his probation. He was released the following day on the condition that he will appear in court today Monday. Bryant told that he intends to plead not guilty.

“I don’t know what I’m going to court to do. I don’t have lawyers, and if they want to go into the trial I will say I don’t have lawyers, and I’m not guilty of anything. And I’m not going to go further than that until the situation about me having a free and fair trial with defense is assured. If that isn’t assured, I have nothing to say. So far the process has not been fair; it has not been legal. It’s been a process that is edging on being unconstitutional. Due processes are being denied my lawyers,” he said.

Late last month Bryant dismissed his legal team because he said the Supreme Court found Counselors Theophilus Gould and Samuel Clarke in contempt and threatened to suspend them from practicing law.

“The Supreme Court had ruled that I must be audited. That audit has been done, and so we filed a motion before the Supreme Court to dismiss the trial. Before the judge could act on that, we were summoned into the Supreme Court again, and the Supreme Court ruled that my lawyers are suspended for two years from practicing law. The suspension is suspended so they can defend me, but they are not allowed to file any motion to dismiss or quash the indictment. And if they do anything that is perceived by them to be a delay, the suspension will take immediate effect. So I can’t have people with that kind of sanction hanging over them put up a vigorous defense for me,” he said.

Bryant described the judicial process as unfair to him to the point that he said he might not get a fair trial. Still he said he would go to court Monday to tell the judge that he doesn’t have lawyers and to ask for time to determine how to proceed.

The government has charged Bryant with stealing $1.3 million and of economic sabotage during his tenure as transitional government chair. But Bryant said it makes no sense for him to be the leader of a government and at the same time sabotage such government.

“Does it make sense for me to head a government and sabotage it? If I had sabotaged a government how come we did the things we did? None of those things they’re coming up with make sense. I didn’t steal anybody’s money. The ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) report never said I stole money. The ECOWAS report which is not an audit report, it is an investigative report said that I refused to explain to them why I authorized and or received money,” Bryant said.

He said whatever expenditures he might have authorized during his tenure as head of the transitional government were protected by law.

“There are certain classified things we did, and the money they’re talking about, they say is well over a million dollar, and the reason for those things are classified. There were things that we had to do here that I’m restricted from talking about,” Bryant said.

He said he has not talked to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf since his arrest and release from prison. But Bryant said the charges against him and his subsequent arrest are a deliberate attempt by the Sirleaf government to violate his constitutional rights and embarrass him.

“Absolutely no doubt. The fact that somebody would go to the extent to feloniously smuggle a bill that is not a law, what does that tell you? The constitution was restored and my immunity was in effect. I cleared that with ECOWAS before I took the office. How you can come and say that one branch of government at the end of the operation of our mission can pass a resolution that would take away my immunities? Then we go and investigate, no such resolution was passed. It’s a major breach of our constitution,” he said.

Bryant described as regrettable his arrest and brief imprisonment. But he said it is the price for peace.

“It’s not something that I applaud, and the fortunate thing is that I don’t feel angry; I don’t feel bitter; I feel strong, and we will go to court. Sometime, like I said to somebody yesterday, that’s the price that one has to pay for peace. We have to move forward with Liberia. It is our country. So let’s move forward; that’s behind me now,” he said.

Bryant said he was treated with respect and courtesy during his one day in jail.