MONROVIA, Montserrado – More than 25 individuals arrested in Paynesville by the Liberia National Police were refused by the Monrovia City Court due to overcrowded cells at the Monrovia Central Prison.
The alleged criminals, who are commonly referred to as ‘zogos,’ were charged with minor offenses including theft of property and loitering.
After being refused by the court, the criminals were taken back to the LNP headquarter and later released.
The court action comes after a June 21 communication from Solicitor General Betty M. Lamin-Blamo directing all county attorneys, prosecutors, district attorneys and city solicitors to avoid issuing writs of arrest for minor criminal offenses due to the crowded prison.
Lamin-Blamo advised prosecutors to only issue writs of arrest in cases of capital offenses such as murder or rape, offenses relating to national security threats, human trafficking, and arson. Further, Blamo said exceptions can be granted on a case-by-case basis given the gravity and the circumstances.
As of August 5, 2016, there were 931 persons in pre-trial detention for various offenses.
The ‘zogos’ who were released are frequently perceived as pickpockets who masquerade as car loaders.
Sam K. Collins, the LNP’s spokesperson, said the police can only arrest, charge, and forward criminals to the court for prosecution. If the court fails to prosecute the criminals, Collins said, the police cannot do anything because the law limits police detention of alleged criminals to 48 hours.
“The LNP does not have anywhere to keep a large number of criminals, and all we did was to release them after they were refused by the court,” he said.
The issuance of Lamin-Blamo’s directive has reduced the daily number of persons detained at the Monrovia Central Prison by 50 percent, based on visual observation.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah