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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More