General News

Sierra Leone opposition protesters granted bail

Date: Jan 8, 2019

A court in Sierra Leone on Monday granted bail to 14 opposition supporters after they took part in New Year's Eve protests over the arrest of a former minister for alleged corruption.

Alfred Paolo Conteh, a former defence minister, was detained on December 28 by investigators in charge of a sprawling graft probe but was released on bail last week. After Conteh's arrest, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in the capital Freetown last week and dozens were detained, including a former deputy health minister.

The 14 bailed supporters of the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party face charges including disorderly behaviour, riotous conduct, throwing missiles and threatening language, according to the court. Conteh is accused of corruption over the procurement of military vehicles, uniforms and rice in a contract reported to be worth $10 million.

The Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission last week also questioned the current housing minister Dennis Sandy and a former ambassador to Iran, Alimamay Kamara, over corruption allegations, a senior official at the agency told AFP on Monday.

A police source said former president Ernest Bai Koroma and APC Secretary General Alhaji Osman Foday Yansaneh had been asked to meet investigators after the release of a statement that condemned Conteh's arrest. Officers said the statement potentially incites tribal violence and dissatisfaction with the government so the pair could face incitement and sedition charges.

President Julius Maada Bio succeeded Koroma nine months ago after a tumultuous election campaign in which he targeted corruption, ending a decade-long rule by the APC. Soon after he took office, a government report said "rampant corruption" had led to the "near collapse" of the West African nation's economy.

The government has approved a commission of enquiry, with hearings expected to begin in January 2019.

--AFP--

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