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Sierra Leone Accuses 21 of Treason

April 6, 1998

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ Accused of collaborating with Sierra Leone’s ousted military junta, 21 people appeared in court Monday to answer to charges ranging from murder to high treason.

Dozens of police officers guarded the crowded courtroom as relatives of the accused wept when the treason charges _ punishable by death _ were read by the court clerk. All 21 were charged with treason, while some also face counts of arson and murder.

President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was ousted by the junta in a bloody coup last May but was reinstalled March 10 after a Nigerian-led West African intervention force drove the military government from power.

One of Kabbah’s first moves after he returned to power was to declare a state of emergency to enable authorities to imprison opponents without trial.

The group charged Monday, the first to face charges since the junta was ousted, are among more than 200 people being investigated for crimes committed during the junta’s brutal rule.

Among the defendants are Victory Brandon, a former junta government minister; Gibril Massaquoi, a top military regime functionary and Gipu Felix-George, the chief executive of Sierra Leone’s state-controlled broadcasting authority.

Sheku Bayoh, Kabbah’s former secretary, was also charged with allegedly offering to help the junta.

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