BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – The case between the Liberian government and 10 suspects from Sinoe entered its fourth day at the Second Judicial Circuit Court on Tuesday, with defendants appearing to testify.
The defendants include Moses Solo, Teah Gmawlue, Marshall Gbala, Sylvester Charty, Dennis P. Pyne, Victor Solo, Swen Pyne, Anthony Karmoh, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Alex Karpeh.
On December 12, 2018, three women, Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh, and Willete Nyewallah, were stripped naked, paraded on the streets, and gang-raped in Johnny Town in Sinoe. They were accused of being witchcraft, and the ordeal led to the death of Nyewallah, who was secretly buried in swampland in Johnny Town.
The defendants were charged for the commission of the crimes of murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal facilitation, and criminal conspiracy and the case was transferred to the Second Judicial Circuit court in Buchanan after prosecutors requested such.
The case began on August 13, just after the court had opened for the August term of court. The government is represented by a team of lawyers led by Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, assistant justice minister for litigation, while the defendants are represented by a team of public defenders led by Grand Bassa’s county public defender, Paul Jarvan.
On August 13, Oretha Kelgbeh, the mother of the deceased Nyewallah, had testified that her daughter was called by the community dwellers on December 12, 2018, during an investigation of a missing child. According to Kelgbeh, her daughter told the community she knew nothing about the missing child.
Angeline Saydee and Florence Tarkleh, the other victims, also testified that Saydee’s one-year-old child, Wilmot Leo, had gone missing. Saydee said she asked Nyewallah about the child and was told that Nyewallah had taken the child to a “dark” world in a place called Barh Town. Saydee said she informed the police and the police went to Barh Town, but they did not see the child, which prompted the police to turn the three women over to the commissioner.
The women said because of the “traditional” nature of the case, they were turned over to traditional leaders. They said the suspects stripped them naked and paraded them through Johnny Town. Afterward, they were gang-raped and tortured by the seven suspects plus others who escaped the scene and have not been found to be arrested.
Three of the seven defendants – Victor Solo, Dennis Pyne, and Sylvester Charty – took the witness stand for the first time on August 20 and denied all of the charges.
They were escorted back to the Upper Buchanan prison compound to reappear in later days as the trial continues.
The incident in Sinoe drew national attention and condemnation, with Rep. Jay Nagbe Sloh of Sinoe’s second district criticizing the public humiliation of the women. Many rights organizations also expressed their dissatisfaction with how the women were treated and called for legal action against the perpetrators.
Featured photo by Sampson David