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Liberian Lawmakers Ordered to Testify on Speaker's Removal

Lawmakers in Liberia are being ordered to testify before the Supreme Court about their recent vote to oust controversial House Speaker Edwin Snowe. Earlier in the week, the court reinstated Snowe pending his appeal that his removal was done illegally. Some representatives who oppose Snowe say they will not follow the court's orders, while others say this case is a test of the country's post-war government. Kari Barber reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Thursday lawmakers who voted against Snowe will be called for testimony at the Monrovia high court.

One of them is Armah Sarnour who says he served as interim Speaker of Liberia's lower house on Wednesday. He told VOA he plans to do more work in the House Thursday rather than going to the Supreme Court.

"As I speak, we are holding session today and people are coming," he said. "We held session today and tomorrow we will hold session again."

Other Snowe opponents have also said they will not honor the court's rulings. They say the court does not have the right to impede the proceedings of the legislative branch.

Other lawmakers are taking a more careful approach.

Parliament Member Vinicius Hodges says he wants Snowe out of power, but he says he petitioned the court for Snowe's reinstatement. Hodges says he does not believe the method used to remove Snowe was fair.

"I want Snowe to go," he said. "I have always opposed Snowe being my speaker. During his election I stood on the floor and opposed him."

"So Snowe going, I do not have a problem with that. I have a problem with flouting the rule of law. We just came from a war. If we begin to flout our constitution, we are heading for another war," he added.

Human rights lawyer Dempster Browne says he is optimistic most lawmakers will heed the Supreme Court's call.

"If there are lawmakers who want to defy the law of the land, we will see that," he said. "I think the minister of justice will advise them not to defy the Supreme Court because nobody is above the law."

Liberian House Speaker Edwin Snowe was ousted in an unusual parliamentary vote last week held in a facility outside the capital, Monrovia.

The current contention against Snowe is that he broke parliamentary rules by interfering with the state's foreign diplomacy.

Snowe has appealed to the Supreme Court saying the vote to oust him was invalid and has accused lawmakers of accepting bribes.

Snowe, an ally of jailed former President Charles Taylor, has long been a political opponent of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.