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Protest Planned Monday to Demand Liberian Rights Activist’s Release

FILE - Vandalark Patricks protests outside Roberts International Airport. Patricks was arrested after he read a communique on behalf of a consortium of political parties and civil society organizations on February 21.

In Liberia, a demonstration is planned Monday to demand the release of human rights activist Vandalark Patricks who was arrested by the Liberian government last Wednesday and charged with sedition and criminal libel.

Patricks was arrested after he read a communique on behalf of a consortium of political parties and civil society organizations on February 21 calling for a mass citizen action on March 11.

He also accused the Liberian Government of hiring assassins to murder the former managing director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, Harry Greaves, and eliminate other political opponents of the government. Mr. Greaves’ body was discovered January 31 this year on a beach near Monrovia.

Mulbah Morlue, vice chairman for operations and mobilization for Liberia’s main opposition Congress for Democratic Change party (CDC), said Patricks must be released immediately.

“We believe Mr. Patricks’ arrest is a misplaced aggression of judicial authority because he was a representative of the different political groupings and civil society actors that came together to issue that statement. So, we hold that his arrest is arbitrary, his arrest is unwarranted. And so, we are staging a very pro-protest on the premises of the Temple of Justice to insist that government has no business for holding Mr. Patricks at the Monrovia Central Prison,” he said.

Patricks on hunger strike

Morlue said Patricks has embarked on a hunger strike because prison authorities would not allow his family to bring food into the prison and he has refused eat the prison food because he does not trust it.

Liberian government officials were not available for comment. Efforts to reach the police or the justice minister proved fruitless.

Morlue dismissed the suggestion that Patricks was reckless in his comments.

He said the consortium of political parties and civil society groups issued their statement because they had been concerned about the number of recent “politically motivated" mysterious deaths which reminded the people of the dark days of the past.

“You remember there was a murder on the Congo Town back road of standard bearer of the Free Democratic Party, Mr. Ciapha Gbolee. No arrest was made. There was the murder of human rights activist and anti-corruption whistleblower, Michael Allison. No arrest was made. And now the latest is the murder of Harry Greaves. Mr. Patrick was simply reading a document that was making a documentary that was authorized by different political institutions,” Morlue said.

Morlue said it has been difficult to find an insurance company to guarantee Patricks’ $3,000 bond because the case was political in nature and no insurance company wanted to associate itself with it.

“Every insurance company we went to neglected granting a bail bond to Mr. Patricks because all of them expressed fear because they had been forewarned by state actors not to grant bail bond to Mr. Patricks, and that if they were to grant bail bond to Mr. Patricks, there would be repercussions coming from the authority of government,” he said.

He dismissed a suggestion that perhaps it was difficult to make bail because Patricks, as a young man, has not property to guarantee his bail and that he could also flee the country.

“Vandalark Patricks is not a politician or is not an activist on the run. There is no question whatsoever as for the integrity of this young man. This is the young man that has national credibility and respectability. It’s not possible to perceive that he will flee when granted a bail bond,” Morlue said.

Late Sunday, a report in FrontPage Africa suggested that a bond had been found. The report said businessman and opposition political party leader, Benoni Urey had made the cash available to an insurance Company to secure the bond for Patricks’ temporary release as he prepares to face trial.

But the same report said Patricks’ lawyer, Tiawon Gongloe could not confirm if bail had been posted.