Due to DEA’s Negligence of the Law, Court Sets ‘Drug Traffickers’ Free

first_imgThree suspected drug traffickers, one of them a 7-month pregnant woman, had their lucky break in court yesterday when Judge Peter Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court ‘C’ ordered the “immediate release” of the defendants due to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) “violation of the rights of those individuals.”His action came despite assurances that the DEA, which is tasked with combating drug-related crimes within Liberia, is gaining ground against the local drug trade of late.Judge Gbeneweleh however believes that the agency is now using its statutory powers to arrest and incarcerate suspected drug traffickers for more than 48 hours without formally charging the suspects as provided for under the law.The “unlawful” practice was unearthed recently by the Judge, prompting him to order the immediate release of three persons, among them a pregnant woman, suspected of being behind the importation of a quantity of heroin valued at L$1.2 million (US$14,532), from what he described as “withholding cell.”The illegal shipment of the dangerous substances, according to the DEA, originated from Kampala, Uganda, and was intercepted at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) through the DHL.Judge Gbeneweleh said the decision to free the three suspects is to make security operatives in the country to understand that the rights of an accused are to be respected at all times.“The fact that the DEA has the power to keep people accused of committing drug-related offenses in their withholding cell for over a week without formally charging them, is wrong as it violates the rights of those individuals. It should stop immediately from the country,” Judge Gbeneweleh stressed. “Therefore, the defendants are hereby released from further detention.”His action came immediately after lawyers representing the three accused filed before the court a writ of Habeas Corpus, which is a directive from a court that requires the government to justify the citizens’ imprisonment. It also guarantees that a person cannot be held for more than a limited period of time without being charged formally with a crime.In all criminal cases, the burden of proof to prove a case is on the government to justify an arrest and detention of a criminal suspect.Article 21 (f) of the 1986 Constitution provides that “Every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and presented before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours. Should the court determine the existence of a prima facie case against the accused, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest setting out the charge or charges and shall provide for a speedy trial. There shall be no preventive detention.”Section (g) of that article also provides that, “The right to the writ of habeas corpus, being essential to the protection of human rights, shall be guaranteed at all times, and any person arrested or detained and not presented to court within the period specified may in consequence exercise this.”An interesting issue with the DEA, a legal expert hinted the Daily Observer is that for the last two years, it has failed to follow up on cases and to prosecute those people accused of drug related offenses.“I challenged the DEA to boast of displaying or burning those substances it has arrested. Instead it was very much interested to announce the identity and value of the drugs it has confiscated,” the expert stated.To support that assertion, the DEA again over the weekend arrested another consignment of heroin at the entering the country via DHL at RIA, the second arrest in about two months.According to the DEA, four persons have been identified – two Nigerians and two Liberians – as those allegedly responsible for the importation of the drugs into the country.The illicit drugs, valued at US$60,000, were neatly concealed in packages of hair products in DHL parcel number 1011647755, but were intercepted by DEA agents in Monrovia, DEA Director-General Anthony K. Souh disclosed. The shipment originated on Lilongwe, Malawi.The illicit drugs, DEA said were discovered in cans of emptied UV Whitening cream (hair products).A drug expert hinted the Daily Observer that the DEA does not have an in-house lawyer to advise them on legal matters.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img

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