August 15, 2002
President Charles G. Taylor
President of the Republic of Liberia
Via facsimile: 231-225-217
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is extremely concerned about the whereabouts and the safety of Hassan Bility, editor-in-chief of The Analyst newspaper, which is based in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. He has been held incommunicado in state custody for almost two months. [See CPJ letter of July 3]
Bility and two associates–Ansumana Kamara and Mohammed Kamara–were arrested June 24 on suspicion of collaborating with the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). On June 26, Minister of Information Reginald Goodridge told a press conference that Bility and the two others were in government custody. Soon after, Judge Winston O. Henries ordered the government to produce the accused men in court by July 1, and, even though he granted the government a two-day extension to comply, the accused were never brought to his court. [See CPJ news alert of July 26]
On July 9, Judge Henries ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over the accused since they are “unlawful combatants” and said they should be tried before a military court.
According to several reports from news organizations and human rights groups, on July 25, the Court Martial Board, Liberia’s military court, gave the government an August 7 deadline to produce Hassan Bility. However, the Ministry of National Defense later declared the writ “null and void,” claiming that the individuals who issued the writ were not authorized to do so. Immediately after, the president of the Court Martial Board denied having issued the writ.
Meanwhile, Bility and his associates remain in custody, and no court proceedings have been carried out. Although government officials insist that Bility’s arrest was unconnected to his work, CPJ research shows that his publication, the independent weekly The Analyst, has been extremely critical of your regime. This year, the government has closed the paper twice, and police ransacked its offices in April.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, we urge you once again to do everything within your power to ensure that Bility and his associates appear in court and are either formally charged or released.
Thank you for your immediate attention to these urgent matters. We await your response.