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Sierra Leone

 

Response to Information Request Number:SLE99001.ZAR
Date:16 August 1999
Subject:Sierra Leone: Information on Dr. W. E. Taylor and the July 25, 1999 Sierra Leone prisoner amnesty/release, including the status of former President Momoh.
From:INS Resource Information Center
Keywords:Pademba prison/ President Momoh

Query:

1) Was Dr. W. E. (Willie) Taylor on the list of persons convicted of treason?

2) Was Taylor among the 41 prisoners freed in July (ref. AP story)?

3) Was Pademba Road Prison destroyed during the January 1999 rebel offensive and were any prisoners killed or disappeared during the fighting?

4) What was the fate of former President Momoh?

Response:

According to a Sierra Leonean web site Villie Ekundayo Taylor (sic) was one of sixteen convicted last August of treason for collaborating with the AFRC military junta (see attachment). No other details of the charges could be obtained from sources available to the RIC. The sixteen were sentenced by a high court judge to death on August 24, 1998. A group of these and other prisoners, however, was released in July 1999 as part of the July 7 Lomé Peace agreement designed to end Sierra Leone¿s civil war. According to a list published in a New York-based Sierra Leonean newspaper, Willie Taylor was one of 49 convicted persons released from Pademba Road Prison on Amnesty (see attachment). Reuters reports a larger number of 98 convicted persons having been pardoned at that time, but some of those pardoned had not been incarcerated or possibly had escaped.

The prisoner release included, according to the newspaper and, per BBC, Sierra Leone state radio, former President J.S. Momoh, who had been serving a ten year prison term (see attachment). Since the release took place from the Pademba Road Prison, presumably the prison had not been destroyed by fighting in Freetown this January, though there was heavy fighting against well-established rebel positions in the immediate area. And the fighting did result in some escapes from the prison according to a BBC broadcast of January 6 (see attachment) and, also per BBC, according to a Sierra Leonean web site, former President Momoh was among the escapees. If this were true then evidently he must have been recaptured or turned himself in before the recent release. Alternatively, all the separate sources reporting his release confused release with amnesty, though this seems improbable. Current whereabouts of Momoh are unknown.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References:

AFP. "Rebels Reportedly Storm Prison Where Foday Sankoh Held" (6 January 1999) ¿ as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

Alusine Fofanna, "Released," The African Sierra Leone Progress (New York: August 1999), p. 1

BBC. "Focus on Africa¿BBC on Situation in Freetown" (6 January 1999) ¿ as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

BBC Monitoring Africa. "Sierra Leone: Nearly 100 Prisoners Pardoned in Spirit of Reconciliation" [Sierra Leone web site] (23 July 1999) ¿ as reported on NEXIS.

BBC Online Network. 24 July 1999. World: Africa Vigil goes on outside jail. [Internet] http://news2.thls.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_402000/402914.stm [Accessed on 14 August 1999].

BBC. "Focus on Africa¿Sierra Leone Government Resleases More Collaborators" (24 July 1999) ¿ as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

"Condemned Civilians Give 21 Days to Appeal," Sierra Leone Daily News Briefs (25 July 1998) [internet] ¿ as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

Reuters. "Sierra Leone Pardons 98 Who Aided Junta" (23 July 1999) ¿ as reported on NEXIS.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION