MONROVIA, July 15 (LINA) – “THE GEEZ.LIB” blogger Suzan Gbangaye, 25, who has dedicated her social media platform to promoting, as well critiquing the Liberian entertainment industry on popular issues that may arise, could not make it on her flight back to Melbourne, Australia, because she was arrested by police on the orders of the Monrovia City Court.
Police officers issued the Writ of Arrest on the Liberian-Australian over charges of criminal coercion and harassment when she arrived at Roberts International Airport for check-in, not knowing she had to start a fresh legal battle with Liberian musician Maurice Gayflor stage-named “CIC. »
Complainant CIC first filed a criminal suit against Suzan at the Paynesville City Court, where he presented into evidence a video in which he accused her of linking him to the death of Quincy B in a car accident, from which CIC himself survived.
At that pre-trial conference, the defendant is seen and heard in the video admitted by CIC during her entertainment show stating that: “Regarding the death of Liberian entertainer Quincy B, there is a question mark on his friend and colleague, CIC.”
Defendant Suzan pleaded not guilty and told the conference, “that statement was attributed to the views of others and not a direct attribution to the artist.”
The Paynesville magisterial court subsequently dismissed the case on grounds that the matter involves questions surrounding freedom of speech that has been decriminalized in Liberia.
In its Conference Order, the court, however, said that there is a redress at law through civil suit for slander which is determinable at the circuit court which has jurisdiction over such matter in which the complainant is claiming damage. “This court therefore dismisses the suit of criminal coercion and advises the private prosecutor to pursue his case with the circuit court where the jurors will determine this case, and also seek damages for the offence against him. And it is hereby so ordered.”
In March, President George Weah signed into law the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom decriminalizing speech offenses. Advocates have since hailed this move as a demonstration by the government to protect the basic tenets of Liberia’s fledgling democracy.
Notwithstanding, defense attorney Sumo Kutu Akoi excepted to the ruling but his next legal journey in the case was never at a circuit court. He settled for another “court of first instance”, the Monrovia City Court presided over by Magistrate Kennedy Peabody which ordered the arrest of the defendant on July 7 at the airport.
The defendant told the Liberia News Agency Monday that the sudden rebirth of the same case at another court with equal jurisdiction as the Paynesville Magisterial Court was a form of “intimidation” and “infringement” of her right to free speech.
Meanwhile the Australian embassy near Accra, Ghana, reportedly became furious that Liberian authorities did not alert them after their citizen was arrested.
On Sunday morning, news broke that Suzan was detained for several hours and later released to await a renewed hearing or trial.
She and her boyfriend, music producer “Stone Luckshine,” are calling for a speedy hearing at the Monrovia City Court. They have rejected a demand by CIC and his manager “King Jaffar” that the blogger makes a written, signed apology.
Efforts made on Monday to contact Magistrate Peabody did not materialize as LINA was told that he was absent from work. But in an expert opinion by a prosecutor at the City Court, it was understood that cases of such nature as CIC’s can only be taken from one magisterial court to another based on evidence produced in the previous hearing or trial or a procedural error.
However, when abreast with the ruling emanating from the Paynesville City, the attorney doubted if the case can be once, again, heard at the Monrovia City Court.
Blogger Suzan said in an interview: “This whole thing trampled upon my freedom of speech to every extent because we all are entitled to freedom of speech in this country, which of course I told Judge Peabody that people come for the President and nobody comes for them this way – me coming here after sixteen years and you guys are jumping on me putting me in jail, and making me to want to sign a paper not to say anything …that, is just wrong!”
She further said the only thing that worries her most, is that her daughter is sick and she is prevented from going back to Australia to cater for her child. Suzan has called on central to intervene into the matter, also saying that she is on the verge of losing her job.
In the meantime, when contacted, CIC’s manager King Jaffar told LINA that: “The case is in court so we cannot make comment on such matter.”
But on the question of any move for the two parties to settle their scores out the courts, Jaffar, however, said that: “That has been agreed upon long time but the other party is not willing, so that’s it.”
Liberia’s entertainment setting appears to be one of the most challenged in Africa, and observers say it needs progressive ideas to move to the next level and not based on, marginal issues such as beef and other actions alike, already hurting the industry.