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Doe Lifts Curfew, Releases Some Post-Coup Prisoners

December 12, 1985

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ President-elect Samuel K. Doe said Wednesday he has released 14 people held since an abortive Nov. 12 coup but that several opposition leaders and other civilians still detained will be tried.

In a speech carried live on radio, Doe also announced the lifting of the nighttime curfew imposed after his troops put down a coup led by Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, a former commander of the Liberian army.

Quiwonkpa was captured and killed three days after the coup attempt in this West African state, which was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves.

While announcing the release of 14 politicians, officials and a journalist, Doe said an unspecified number of civilians still in detention would be tried in a civilian court as soon as preliminary investigations are completed.

Among those still in detention are Jackson Doe, a Liberia Action Party candidate who ran against Samuel Doe in the October national election. The two are not related.

Samuel Doe claimed victory in the election, with 51 percent of the vote.

Doe’s speech came a day after a key U.S. official said the United States felt there was hope for democratic change in Liberia despite the bloody coup attempt and opposition charges that the election had been rigged.

Chester Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington that the United States shared some criticism of the way the election was handled. But he praised the fact that three opposition parties participated and that independently owned local newspapers covered the campaign.

The U.S. Congress had threatened to withhold $90 million in assistance if Liberia did not make progress toward democratic rule.

Doe, who came to power in a bloody coup in 1980, appealed in his speech for the United States, ″our traditional friends,″ to help achieve economic recovery and develop Liberia’s economy.

He also announced the approval of a measure granting foreigners the right to own land in Liberia, which would encourage foreign investments.

″We are prepared to protect their investment,″ he said.

Doe said the special military tribunal has completed the trial of Gen. Morris Zaza, who was ousted as commander of the army three days after the coup. Zaza is charged with conspiring to overthrow Doe’s military government, an offense punishable by death by firing squad. Doe said the report of Zaza’s trial is being prepared for judgment.

Among those whose release was announced were Tuan Wren, chairman of the Liberia Action Party; Emmanuel Shaw, former deputy economic affairs minister; Rudolph Grimes, a former government official; Dr. Antoinette Mary Brown- Sherman, former president of the University of Liberia, and journalist Kwame Clement of the Liberian Broadcasting System.

Doe said intelligence reports did not confirm their involvement in Quiwonkpa’s coup, but they may be called upon to help in the security forces’ investigation.

Other politicians still in detention are Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former finance minister and senatorial candidate of the Liberia Action Party; Byron Tarr, the party’s secretary-general and former economics affairs minister, and Peter Bonner Jallah, senatorial candidate of the Liberian Unity Party.

Two prominent journalists are also still being held. They are Momolu Sackor Sirleaf, publisher of the independent Footprints newspaper, and Isaac Bantu, a local correspondent of the British Broadcasting System.

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