The director of Liberia’s National Police said Vice President Joseph Boakai is not under investigation for being part of an alleged effort to form an interim government overseas.
But, the publisher and managing editor of the Liberia National Chronicle said, he’s in possession of a September 3 letter written by Police Director Chris Massaquoi is seeking permission from Justice Minister Christiana Tah to investigate Boakai, among others.
Publisher Philibert Brown, arrested in mid-August and his paper shut down for publishing the article, told VOA the government has violated his constitutional rights by preventing him from leaving the country on grounds that he’s a person of interest in an ongoing investigation.
“There was a group that we referred to as the Liberia Leadership Forum headed by Ambassador James Teah Tarpeh and John Morlue, and we said that these people were looking at an option of forming an interim government. And, it was owing to that they closed the paper down. And then, when I asked to travel to the United States, I was denied that [and] I could not leave the country until the ongoing investigation is concluded,” he said.
Brown said he does not understand why his paper is still shut down and why he has been denied the right to travel abroad since he was never charged with a crime.
“The ongoing investigation has since been concluded, and the police director has written a formal letter to the Minister of Justice requesting that the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia be investigated for his role, and that James Tarpeh and Mr. John Morlue also be investigated. The Chronicle was never mentioned in their recommendation, so it beats my imagination why the Chronicle remains closed down,” Brown said.
He said his publication has written Tah informing her that the police have violated his rights as guaranteed by the constitution and the UN Charter on Human and Individual Rights.
“We requested that the Minister of Justice restores our rights because the police director has no power to seize any Liberian citizen’s liberty, especially when the person has not been charged with any criminal mischief,” Brown said.
Massaquoi said Boakai is not under investigation. Instead, he said the police are investigating the Chronicle newspaper for its article, which claims the vice president is part of a group that is reportedly considering forming an interim government overseas.
“The Vice President is not under any investigation. That is absolutely unfounded. It is the Chronicle newspaper that mentioned names in its own publication; it was his own making,” Massaquoi said.
Massquoi also denied he wrote a letter to Tah requesting permission to investigate Boakai. He defended the government’s decision to shut down the National Chronicle without a court order.
“Normally, in a situation like that, if anybody comes up with such article, it’s obvious that the government will make some inquiries because, if you have a constitutional government in power and someone writes to say that an interim government is being formed, I think it’s worth looking into,” Massaquoi said.
He said the government is looking into the matter because it’s possible the Chronicle might have lied about Boakai.
He said the police report to, and take orders directly from, the justice minister, but the police chief would not say whether the Ministry of Justice gave the orders to shut the National Chronicle down.