Judge Ceaineh Clinton Johnson has admitted releasing on bail two Lebanese rape convicts and two others suspected of the same crime, despite media reports putting the number higher.Rape is a non-bailable offense under the new law, but Judge Johnson, who is one of the few female judges in the country, yesterday defended her decision, blaming it on the Liberian government.According to her, the prosecution informed her that government was not interested in continuing with the cases.A Lebanese national Jaafar Bashir, 44, who was charged for raping young Liberian children within the age range of 7 and 15, was released on a US$25,000 bail by Judge Johnson.Another Lebanese, Ali Saksouk, 21, was accused of raping a 13-year old child, but he was also released on bail by Judge Johnson.Two Lebanese rape convicts, Anthony Kassabli and his father, Dib Edmond Kassabli were convicted of gang rape, but also released by Judge Johnson on bail. Anthony was released for health reasons, while his father was given executive clemency by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.However, in her charge to lawyers, judges, prospective jury and party litigants yesterday at the August 2015 opening of Criminal Courts A, B, C, D and E, Judge Johnson in a strongly worded statement said, “the press published that Lebanese nationals were the only ones who were granted bail in Court ‘E,’ but from the records of the court, out of the forty-two bails granted, only three were Lebanese nationals.”Criminal Court ‘E’ is solely responsible to hear and decide rape cases.Judge Johnson clarified that the three Lebanese were freed based upon a state application to ‘nolle prosequi’ (to waive the case), “but the news was that the court was just freeing criminals.”‘Nolle prosequi’ is an admission made by prosecution that they cannot prove the charges against the defendants, because available evidence demonstrates that an accused is innocent.The declaration can be made either before or after the start of a trial, meaning the case against the defendant will then be dropped.Further, in her charge Judge Johnson said the Criminal Court E’s decision was also based on what she considered as “change of venue.”“When a change of venue was requested and granted, newspapers reported that they will be watching the judge, who transferred the case. If they were to verify the news they would have presented the truth to the general public on the case,” she averred.She also used the occasion to advise media institutions, saying, “We know that we now have the Freedom of Information Act, but the dignity of the court will, and must at all times be respected. Any reporting that has the tendency to compromise any side of a case is prejudicial to the safety of our land.”Judge Johnson continued, “We expect you to carefully check your information, balance and or verify them from the court before reporting to the general public.”Throughout her deliberation, the female Judge did not mention the name of a particular media institution.Cautioning lawyers earlier, Judge Johnson said they, too, have a responsibility to ensure that respect is given to the courts; therefore, they should avoid unjust causes of unmeritorious reporting.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Residents of the Region 10 community of Victory Valley in Wismar, Linden (Upper Demerara-Berbice) have voiced their concerns about the ongoing threat of severe erosion which is evident in the community.The residents registered their concerns during a consultation with Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry, Simona Broomes, on Sunday. As the consultation got underway, other issues which were brought to the fore included difficulties receiving land titles, deteriorating roads and garbage issues, and the lack of job opportunities, among others.Minister Broomes also met with some small miners, who also voiced their concerns over job opportunities.A section of the gathering at the meeting in LindenAdditionally, the minister conducted a tour of the Victory Valley community, where she got a firsthand look at the situation with regard to erosion and numerous dilapidated bridges in the area.She was accompanied by outgoing Mayor of Linden, Carwyn Holland; Region 10 People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Party Chairman Derron Adams, and several Municipal and Regional Councillors.Speaking with this publication shortly after the tour, Mayor Holland spoke about several issues which were highlighted. “In the area of erosion, we’re trying to see what best could be done, because the drainage in the area is breaking up with the steady erosion, and several homes are under threat.“Also, the Valley is the place where they’ve had several issues with garbage, since the area was not really served (by the Linden Mayor and Town Council). And so moves were made to clean up those huge garbage heaps that were there for many years. The Council had done some cleaning on some of the garbage areas last year, and now the massive ones that were not touched in many years, they were cleaned through a collaboration with the RDC (Regional Democratic Council), M&TC, and so on…,” he pointed out.Holland had previously called for a $3 billion revetment programme to deal with the issue of massive erosion, which is occurring in several communities across Linden.“The Valley is just one area that is under serious threat of erosion. There are many other areas that have this problem. The issue was raised with Government this week again, and we’re hopeful that Government will consent to at least doing the revetment work in several areas; and I think the Valley can be one that they can start with”, the mayor said.