Former Vice President Convicted Of Treason, Sentenced To Death
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ A jury convicted former First Vice President Francis Minah and 17 others of treason Saturday in a failed coup attempt in this west African nation. Minah and 15 others were sentenced to death.
The jury deliberated about four hours before returning the verdict. The trial lasted nearly five months.
One soldier collapsed after hearing his death sentence and was treated by a doctor.
Judge Dunstant Williams announced the death sentences after the sixteen were convicted of plotting to assassinate President Joseph Momoh. Two other defendants, charged with having knowledge of a treason plot, received sentences of four and seven years.
The defendants were given 21 days to appeal, and they repeated their claims of innocence.
″When I was informed by the police they had decided to charge me with treason ... I was in a state of shock,″ Minah told the court. ″That I have been found guilty of treason shocks me the more.″
Some of the accused wept as the verdicts and sentences were read.
Former Assistant Police Superintendent Mohammad Kaikai, the alleged coup leader, said he was innocent and remained a loyal servant of the government.
″I owe an allegiance to the government, president and the state and cannot go against them,″ he said.
The defendants were accused of plotting to kill Momoh and install Minah in his place. Police said they found a huge cache of weapons, including rocket launchers and heavy machine guns, in a March 23 raid on a Freetown house and at the home of one of Kaikai’s relatives.