By Sahr Eric George
Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Former Head of State, Ernest Bai Koroma, who is facing four counts, including treason charges related to an alleged coup attempt on November 26, 2023, in Freetown, has been granted bail on medical grounds until March 6, 2024. Despite his absence in court, the lead defence counsel, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, successfully argued for bail, citing the serious medical condition faced by the ex-president.
The state prosecutors, led by Attorney General Mohamed Lamin Tarawally and Director of Public Prosecution I. O. Kanu, did not oppose the bail application. Kamara, in his plea, apologized for Koroma’s absence and presented a medical report supporting the claim. The sureties, Minkailu Mansaray (Chairman of the All People’s Congress Party) and Osman Foday Yansaneh, were present in court to fulfil the bail conditions he said.
While Bockarie did not object to the bail application, he expressed concerns about the potential misuse of bail terms to allow Koroma to avoid court appearances. Bockarie emphasized that the prosecution had witnesses ready to testify, but Koroma’s absence hindered progress in the case.
Kamara assured the court that the former president, who has consistently attended interviews and court hearings, would make himself available for every court appearance.
Tarawally, on behalf of the state, raised concerns about public statements that could be perceived as contempt of court. He referred to a public notice released by Lansana Dumbuya Esq., the Secretary General of the APC, and an interview where Kamara hinted at the court possibly witch-hunting the former president. Tarawally requested the court to caution against such practices or he will consider applying for contempt charges.
Kamara defended freedom of speech and clarified that Dumbuya was not involved in the court matter. He asserted that individuals have the right to express their opinions.
Kamara revealed that the defence had not received the witness statement from the prosecution and announced their intention to take action against the prosecution for the oversight.
In his ruling, Magistrate Santigie Bangura urged caution in reporting on the case, warning of contempt charges for anyone failing to comply. Kamara requested a three-month adjournment for Koroma’s medical treatment, but Bockarie proposed one month. As the two sides could not agree, Magistrate Bangura set the adjournment date for March 6th, 2024. SEG/18/1/2024