The female complainant in the matter that has seen the Chairman of the Bombali District Council Human Rights Committee sent to prison until he can settle a bailbond or produce a missing suspect he stood surety for, has contacted this newspaper yesterday 30th September 2009, to lament at the bashing that Magistrate Manuella Harding has been facing at the hands of a certain local tabloid insofar as the matter was concerned and for which it is now alleged, the Judiciary is being blackmailed into pressurizing Magistrate Harding into releasing the defaulting surety.
The complainant, Salamatu Kamara, a bonafide citizen of Sierra Leone, explained in a very depressed and solemn mood of how she exercised her rights as a citizen to seek justice by dragging one Millicent Kamara to court on several count charges in June this year. Millicent Kamara was granted bail by Magistrate Harding in the sum of Le500,000 and one surety for which Human Rights Chairman, Mr. Abass J. Kamara stood as surety.
The problem arose when the matter was called up a total of six times since 3rd September to 29th September 2009 and on each occasion, neither the suspect, Millicent, nor her surety, Abass J. Kamara, came forward whilst the complainant Salamatu Kamara was present on each occasion. At the last sitting in August, before Millicent Kamara jumped bail in September, when the matter was called up, Millicent had appeared very late and when queried by the Magistrate, said she was late because of the rains. She had then been warned to always be on time. Since that time, the suspect simply ignored the court and never appeared again.
Investigations into the issue by this presshouse shows that the matter was called up on the 3rd September, 7th September, 11th September, 22nd September, 28th September and finally on 29th September when the surety was eventually apprehended on a Bench warrant but on each of the six occasions, the suspect did not appear in court.
When the surety was apprehended, he was asked to settle the bail bond of Le500,000 or produce the surety but he failed to do such and so he was remanded into custody until he either produces the surety or settles the amount he bonded himself to the court for. It is at this stage of him being incarcerated that allegations, though unproven, have surfaced of undue blackmailing pressure being put on persons in the Judiciary hierarchy to order Magistrate Harding to freely release the surety without him first settling his bond or producing the suspect.
Meanwhile, a very disappointed Salamatu Kamara has rhetorically asked this newspaper if indeed it was true, whether the Judiciary did not consider that she also has rights? She opines that if indeed it was true, then it must be that her rights as a Sierra Leonean were not important simply because the person who stood as surety for the offender was a supposed Human Rights activist aligned to nefarious news outlets that might be blackmailing persons at the Judiciary.
"Donít I have rights also? Why should the Magistrate ignore my own rights as a poor citizen complainant seeking justice? Is it because I do not hire abrasive newspapers or is it because I do not know how to blackmail and insult people? If the surety is released without bringing Millicent or first settling the bail amount he bonded himself for, I will give up hope in the Sierra Leone Judiciary," Salamatu Kamara stated in no uncertain terms.
Her husband who also spoke to this newspaper yesterday remarked that a certain local journalist was bluffing all over the country that he had tremendous influence within the corridors of the Judiciary and he could get any Magistrate dealt with if he so desired.
"We are waiting to see if Magistrate Harding will be pressurized to break judicial process because a blackmailing journalist might be blackmailing someone at the Judiciary; we are just waiting to see if citizens do not have rights anymore when they seek justice," Mr. Kamara angrily told this newspaper.
All efforts to get on to the Masterís office yesterday for their comments on the allegations that tremendous but undue pressure was being put on Magistrate Manuella Harding to release the suspect, all proved futile as the Consultant Master & Registrar was in a meeting till late last evening. Efforts to also get Magistrate Harding herself proved futile as all her telephones were switched off.
Meanwhile, the Judiciary will be launching their Bail Policy tomorrow and will be meeting the press in a special session on Saturday.