By Ebi Kesiena
Former President Ernest Bai Koroma has been charged with four offenses in Sierra Leone, including treason, for his alleged role in a failed military attempt to topple the West African country’s government in November, a court in the capital city of Freetown said on Wednesday.
Heritage Times HT recalls that Koroma was summoned by the police for interrogation early December regarding the failed coup attempt on November 26, as revealed in a statement by Information Minister Chernor Bah.
Joseph Kamara, Koroma’s lawyer, criticized the legal proceedings, stating, “A dangerous precedent has been set, we are dragging a former head of state, democratically elected, on trumped-up charges under a political vendetta.”
Later in the day, a high court granted bail to the former president, who is currently under house arrest in the capital as the case has been adjourned until January 17.
According to Sierra Leone’s penal code, conviction on treason charges could result in a life sentence. Additionally, twelve other individuals, including former police and correctional officers, as well as a member of Koroma’s security detail, have also been charged with treason in connection with the failed coup.
This legal development may heighten tensions in Sierra Leone, particularly in the aftermath of the attempted coup and a contentious election that saw President Julius Maada Bio securing a second term in June 2023. The country, still recovering from a civil war that spanned from 1991 to 2002 and claimed over 50,000 lives has experienced escalating tensions.
The election results were contested by the main opposition candidate and questioned by international partners, including the United States and the European Union. On November 26, unidentified gunmen attacked military barracks, a prison, and various locations in Sierra Leone, resulting in the release of around 2,200 inmates and the loss of over 20 lives.
The government later claimed that the incident was a foiled coup primarily orchestrated by Koroma’s bodyguards. The ex-president was subsequently summoned for questioning in early December, where he denounced the attacks in an official statement.
Koroma faced charges, including misprision of treason and two counts of harboring, as they were read out to him while standing in the dock as some of his supporters cried in the courtroom.