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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 11:10 GMT
Liberian religious leaders charged
President Charles Taylor
President Taylor is clamping down on any opposition

Two members of a group trying to improve relations between Christians and Muslims have been charged with treason.

They were arrested on 28 December after being found in possession of e-mails from a rebel group.

We were all stunned by the action

Inter-Religious Council official
David Kiazolu, Secretary-General of the Inter-Religious Council (IRC) and his assistant, Christopher Toe, had been told they would be released on Wednesday but were instead hit with the charges following a court hearing.

The e-mails were apparently suggesting negotiations between the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rebels and the government of President Charles Taylor.

Members of the IRC have been battling to get their officials released for almost two weeks.

Hopes dashed

The statutory period for the authorities to either charge or release them had been exceeded and so the state lawyers had agreed to drop the original charges.

But just as relatives and sympathisers of the men were hugging them outside the courtroom and praising God that their trouble was over, a court officer from an upper magistrate's court in the same building appeared.

Liberian refugees
Thousands have been displaced by the fighting

He served the released men with another writ, this time charging them with treason for allegedly conniving with Lurd rebels to overthrow the government.

"We were all stunned by the action because we all had thought today was the day to put all this behind us," said a member of the council.

When lawyers for the accused men and prosecution counsels appeared before the magistrate minutes later, defence lawyers applied for the men to be freed on bail.

But government lawyers countered the motion, saying treason suspects could not be released on bail.

The two officials men have been taken to the Monrovia Central Prison awaiting the court's ruling.

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08 Jan 03 | Africa
07 Jan 03 | Africa
03 Jan 03 | Africa
09 Dec 02 | Africa
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