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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid