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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
US condemns Liberian detentions
Liberian rebels
Newspaper editor accused of being part of rebel group
The United States has condemned the Liberian government's treatment of a newspaper editor and two other men it has detained.

Hassan Bility, editor of the opposition newspaper Analyst, is accused of collaborating in a plot to kill President Charles Taylor.


Create the conditions whereby true peace and national reconciliation can occur

Richard Boucher, US State Department

He and two other unnamed men have been held incommunicado since their arrest. The Liberian government acknowledged their detention on 23 June.

It accuses them of being part of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) movement.

The Lurd rebels have said they have nothing to do with Mr Bility, according to Reuters.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "We condemn the government of Liberia's failure to follow the rule of law and urge it to comply with a Liberian court order to present these individuals publicly."

Illegal combatant

The US condemnation of the detentions was accompanied by urging that the government adhere to its professed intention to achieve national reconciliation and hold "free and fair elections" next year.

"The United States calls upon the government of Liberia to create the conditions whereby true peace and national reconciliation can occur by encouraging, instead of banning, peaceful political expression and activity and by lifting the current state of emergency," Mr Boucher said.

President Taylor has denied reports that Mr Bility has been tortured to death.

Liberian President Charles Taylor
Taylor declared a state of emergency in February

He told the Kiss FM radio station, which the president owns, that Mr Bility, "is being well-kept. He's not being beaten. He's not being manhandled."

The president said that the newspaper editor and the other men had been arrested after being "involved in soliciting the purchase of arms in the city and coordinating a military attack on Monrovia," the French news agency reports.

Mr Bility would be put on trial before a military tribunal as an "illegal combatant", according to President Taylor.

The arrest was confirmed on 23 June by the Liberian Information Minister, Reginald Goodridge, but state prosecutors have twice failed to produce the editor in court and even denied that he was being detained.

Anti-government

Fears for his safety have been expressed by the press freedom campaigners, Reporters Without Borders.

The group's general secretary, Robert Menard, said that Mr Bility's critical stance towards President Taylor was well known and that he feared that he "may have been tortured to death".

The newspaper edited by Mr Bility, the Analyst, has been closed on several occasions by the government. It was recently accused by the authorities of publishing anti-government articles.

It reopened a month ago.

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03 Jul 02 | Africa
07 May 02 | Africa
21 Jul 01 | Americas
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