Liberia ALERT: Police brutalise human rights lawyer

Tiawan Gongloe, a prominent human rights lawyer and ardent advocate of freedom of expression in Liberia, has been arrested and severely brutalised in Monrovia, Liberia, by policemen for speaking at a civil society movement meeting in Guinea, Conakry. He is currently hospitalised under armed police guard at the SDA COOPER Hospital in Sinkor, Monrovia.

Eleven armed officers of the Liberia National Police, led by officer Mark Dolo, arrested Mr Gongloe during the night hours of Wednesday, April 24 without warrant or charge, stripped him naked, and placed him behind bars in the company of hard-core criminals. He was subsequently taken to the basement of the police headquarters. There, after being briefly questioned about a presentation he made on “Political Activities for the Attainment of Peace and Development in the Mano River Basin,” two plainclothes policemen proceeded to severely beat and kick him through the night. The next morning, Mr Gongloe, who could hardly stand on his feet, had to be carried to the hospital upon the intervention of some lawyers, with a bloodied face, a bleeding right eye and an injured left ear.

The government and its security agencies have ordered the media in Liberia not to publish anything about the attacks on Mr Gongloe. Indeed, on the same day of Mr Gongloe’s arrest, police shut down the offices of The Analyst newspaper for carrying the text of Mr Gongloe’s speech. One staff member of the paper has been arrested, while the Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief are also currently in hiding.

Mr Gongloe, who is popularly referred to as “the poor man’s lawyer,” has often represented clients in human rights cases, and is the author of The Law and the Media in Liberia, published by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Democratic Empowerment (CEDE), a democracy/human rights advocacy organisation in Liberia founded and headed by now-exiled former president of Liberia Prof. Amos Sawyer. He is also a member of the MFWA’s journalists legal defence network.

The MFWA condemns this latest evidence of vicious intolerance and violent assault on a Liberian citizen by the Charles Taylor government and calls on him to immediately release Mr. Gongloe.

The Media Foundation appeals to you to strongly condemn these acts of lawlessness and the total disregard for the rule of law by Taylor’s state security apparatus.

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