Liberia UPDATE: Bility feared dead     

The editor of The Analyst, Hassan Bility, and two others detained June 24 on allegations of a plot to overthrow the Liberian government are feared dead in the hands of state security, according to human rights sources in Monrovia. The government, despite a court order, failed to produce the three in court on two occasions, after human rights lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus.

Bility and the two others were arrested on June 24 for allegedly operating a ‘terrorist cell’ for the LURD dissidents fighting the government of President Charles Taylor. Authorities said the security intercepted an ‘email communication’ to Bility from exiled opposition politician, Alhaji Kromah, which provided details of the alleged coup plot against the government.

According to information gathered by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Bility has not been seen by his family members since his arrest, while efforts by human rights lawyers to locate him have proved futile. In addition, all state security agencies have denied having Bility and the others in their custody, though the government publicly admitted detaining them.

The MFWA is deeply concerned about the security of Bility. Our concern is based on the disappearance of seven Liberian refugees arrested in an UNHCR vehicle by state security in June 2000. The Liberian government claimed the returning refugees were dissidents plotting to overthrow the government after a photograph of an opposition politician was found with one of the returnees. They were charged with treason but their whereabouts remain unknown to date, despite legal challenges to the government to produce them in a court of law.

Bility has been targeted for torture and abuse by Taylor’s government over the years for his journalistic work. In 1998, for example, Taylor’s security agents arrested and tortured him until he bled through the ears for an editorial in The National newspaper criticizing the brutal methods of then Police Director Joe Tate.

In May 2001, security agents confiscated the computers of The Analyst on claims that he used the computers to send subversive information to opposition leader Alhaji Kromah. Bility at the time came out of hiding only after the Press Union of Liberia negotiated his freedom with the Taylor government.

The MFWA urges human rights organizations and individuals interested in freedom to demand that President Charles Taylor personally ensures that Bility and the two others are safe and brought out into the public and charged in a court of law if they are suspected of any crime.

We therefore request you to make your protest about the prolonged detention of journalist Bility by the Taylor’s government without charge.

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