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LIBERIA: Salesian calls for release of 63 young men in prison

Young men have not been served with an indictment


(MissionNewswire) Brother Lothar Wagner, a Salesian missionary who has worked as a chaplain at Monrovia Central Prison in Liberia since 2016, is demanding the immediate release of 63 young men who have been locked up without ever being served with an indictment. This deprives them of the right to defend themselves in court. The situation is occurring at what is known as Criminal Court D (1st Judicial Circuit Court of Montserrado County), which has jurisdiction over armed robbery crimes.

A press release in Front Page Africa Online noted that there are 282 inmates in Monrovia Central Prison whose cases are handled by Court D. Only three of the 282 inmates have received an indictment from the public prosecutor’s office. Of the 279 without a charge, 63 have been in prison for more than two years. Eight of these inmates are serving five or more years in prison.

Without an indictment, these inmates are unable to defend themselves because they don’t know what they are being accused of doing. None of these inmates have legal assistance. They are either not financially able to provide for it or they do not have access to a mandatory public defender.

Bro. Wagner explained, “It is difficult to see these young men being robbed of their future. They are disillusioned, depressed and simply dejected. The families of the prisoners are also at the end. They have lost trust in the rule of law. The vast majority of the inmates in prison are deprived of the right of legal defense.”

Bro. Wagner, his collaborators and a public defender have been working on this issue for months. He explained, “On Jan. 6, 2023, two of my colleagues and I handed over a list of names to the judge of Court D. In May 2023, a lawyer filed a motion for dismissal for 63 inmates who had not been given an opportunity to defend themselves and had already served at least two years in prison.”

The lawyer referred to Section 18.1 of the criminal procedure law entitled “Dismissal for failure to proceed with prosecution.” To date, no hearing has been scheduled by Court D. Bro. Wagner added, “This is more than very frustrating.”

Salesian missionaries have been working to support inmates at Monrovia Central Prison. The prison fellowship program takes place two mornings a week and includes group counseling and psychosocial support. Salesians also provide clothing, washing materials, medical help, spiritual support and legal assistance. Every day, Salesians bring the juvenile and sick inmates a warm meal and a drink.

From the very first contact with an inmate during their admission to the prison, Salesians work to reduce fear and build trust. The focus is on the youth’s situation and future planning. If trust is established early, youth are more likely to positively engage in the activities that help with rehabilitation and long-term planning for the future.

Salesians also provide education. School lessons takes place Monday to Friday between 12-2 p.m. In addition to English and mathematics, life-relevant topics are addressed with a focus on anti-aggression training. Once youth are released, Salesians facilitate access to continued education and vocational training to help with reintegration back into the community.



Front Page Africa Online – Liberia: Don Bosco Demands Release Of 63 Prisoners

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