News / Africa

Lawyer Says Life Threatened Over Liberian Candidate Residency Court Challenge

Syrenius Cephus says the actions of the ruling Unity Party chairman might have instigated the alleged threats on his life

Multimedia

Audio
James Butty

The Liberian Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on a lawsuit challenging the decision of the National Elections Commission to certify 16 presidential candidates, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for next month’s elections.

The Liberian Constitution states that “no person shall be eligible to hold the office of president or vice president unless that person is resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election.”

Last month’s constitutional referendum to change the requirement to five years failed.  The lawyer for the group Concerned Citizens of Liberia that filed the suit has asked the court to withdraw his name because his life has been threatened.

Sayma Syrenius Cephus said the actions of the national chairman and lawyer for the ruling Unity Party, Varney Sherman, might have instigated the threats.

“Apparently those who believe that their candidate will not have the opportunity to participate in the election decided to engage in phone calls by threatening me and saying that, if any of their candidates loses the opportunity to contest the ensuing election on October 11, 2011, I will have to use [a] helicopter to go to work or [a] helicopter to go home, and I became so frightened because of the personal safety of my family and myself,” he said.

Cephus accused Sherman of organizing a “cheering squad” after the Supreme Court ruled to lift the stay it had previously ordered on the political parties.

“I’m sending this message directly to Counselor Varney Sherman. He brought [a] cheering squad [to] the ground floor of the Supreme Court.  I’m not sure if he has full control over their actions or not, but whether it is they or somebody else who decided to engage in such a mischief, I certainly would not know. But, he was the one who instigated the presence of such [a] cheering squad on the grounds of the Supreme Court,” Cephus said.

Sherman said supporters of the ruling party have no reason to threaten Cephus.

“Counselor Cephus said I brought in the cheering squad.  You should get a copy of our returns and see the citation that we made. You have a petition for the writ of prohibition [and] not a single citation of law that the gentleman relied on except for the residency clause.  Why would Unity Party partisans want to threaten Counselor Cephus?  This [he] is not one of the outstanding lawyers in this country. This is not one case that we have any reason to believe that he will win,” he said.

Sherman said his party is confident that the court will rule that President Sirleaf has met the constitutional requirement to seek re-election.

“I said that months, months and months ago; I said that on radio interviews in this country that [President] Ellen Sirleaf is not barred by the 10-year residency clause.  The thing about the residency clause is that the ordinary man interprets it in keeping with his knowledge of the English language. This requirement of the constitution is a legal issue.  Residency is defined by [the] law,” Sherman said.

Cephus said he has been directed by the court to appear on Tuesday and that, in the event the petitioners cannot find a lawyer, he will have to represent the petitioners.

He said he did not report the alleged threat against him to the Justice Ministry because, according to him, he does not trust it.

“It would be a waste of time on two basic fundamental grounds.  Ground number one, there are too many murder cases in this country that are unsolved.  For somebody threatening me using phone calls, the Justice Ministry is a respondent in the case.  It’s like a complainer asking an armed robber for personal security in a trial in which the very armed robber is on trial,” Cephus said.

Cephus dismissed speculation by some that he had been paid off to withdraw from the case.

“I will never ever do that.  First, I have a fiduciary responsibility with my client and that relationship should be completely strong in every case, and I don’t have any reason to trade off,” Cephus said.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid