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Sierra Leone Condemns 26 In Coup Plots

December 31, 1993

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ A military tribunal condemned to death 26 people accused of plotting two coups against Sierra Leone’s military government. They are believed to have been executed almost immediately by firing squad.

Nine were sentenced Wednesday on charges of trying to overthrow the country’s 28-year-old president, Capt. Valentine Strasser, on Monday, state radio reported.

The tribunal, which accepts no appeals, sentenced the remaining 17 on Tuesday. They were arrested in a November coup attempt.

The condemned included civilians, military officers and one woman.

Strasser seized power in a coup of his own last April, overthrowing President Joseph Momoh. Momoh fled to neighboring Guinea.

Anna Stuttard, a spokeswoman for the international human rights group Amnesty International, based in London, condemned the death sentences.

The government has been struggling with a rebel insurgency in the east and the economic troubles it has brought to Sierra Leone’s diamond mining.

Strasser has promised to halt the rebel war and introduce reforms. Newspaper editorials have been calling for Strasser to appoint an interim civilian government and then head for the front to command his troops.

Sierra Leone has a history of coups. In 1989, a former vice president under Momoh and five others were executed on charges they tried to kill Momoh. Ten others were sentenced to life in prison.

Among those sentenced this week was Lt. Col. James Yaya Kanu, who has been in prison since Strasser took power in April. He was believed to have been first in line for the presidency.

The government has offered a reward of $1,000 for any information leading to the arrest of two other military officers implicated in Monday’s rebellion.

Three military policemen were killed in that coup attempt, the government said.

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