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Sierra Leone Reporters Found Guilty

August 24, 1998

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ A jury found 16 people, including five journalists, guilty of treason on Monday for collaborating with the West African country’s ousted military junta. They could face death by hanging.

A 12-member jury announced the verdict after several days of deliberations behind closed doors. All those convicted are Sierra Leone citizens.

The journalists include former British Broadcasting Corporation announcer Hilton Fyle, Sierra Leone state radio executive Gipu Felix George, radio journalists Dennis Smith and Olivia Mensah and newspaper editor Ibrahim Ben Kargbo. They were accused of assisting junta troops during an armed coup d’etat last year.

Former junta spokesman Alieu Kamara was also found guilty.

The others convicted included businessmen and government bureaucrats.

A judge is expected to hand down penalties _ likely death by hanging _ on Tuesday after hearing pleas for mercy from the defendants’ lawyers.

The convictions are the first under President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah’s recently-restored government.

One of the country’s foremost warlords, former rebel leader Foday Sankoh, also faces charges for crimes against humanity, and other treason cases are pending.

Kabbah was forced into exile in May 1997 during the coup led by Lt. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma. Koroma was himself driven from the capital 10 months later by Nigerian-led West African intervention forces, paving the way for Kabbah’s return in March.

Junta and allied rebel forces have threatened mass killings in retaliation against the jailing of Sankoh and other rebels.

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