By Janet A Sesay
Presiding judge, Justice Momoh Jah Stevens has raised concerns over complaints of poor detention of Alfred Paolo Conteh and two other accused persons who are answering to a treason charge and related offences.
The Judge’s concern came after the accused persons explained during last Friday’s proceedings about the accused persons’ deteriorating sanitary condition in cells where they are currently held.
Legal representatives of the accused persons have also made similar complaints on the harsh treatment meted to their clients while in detention.
Similarly, publications on the complaints of poor detention of the accused persons have been carried in conventional and social media platforms quite recently.
In response to the judge’s inquiry, the first accused, Paolo Conteh told the judge that they were served food twice a day which is breakfast and lunch.
However, the first accused said he bought food from the prison restaurant when they run out of condiments.
Apart from the food problem, Paolo Conteh describes the solitary confinement in which he is currently held.
“The cell has an inner room, and in front of the cell there is a small veranda which is covered. I spend 14-15 hours in the cell and the rest of the day in the veranda. From Mondays to Fridays, the cells are opened between 7:15 and 7:30am and closed at 5pm,” he narrated.
On Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays, the accused went on, the cells are opened at 7:30am and closed at 4pm.
“I am not allowed to get sunshine and fresh air within the premises which is one of the facilities of the cell. I only get sunlight when I come to court,” the accused complained.
The second accused person, Anthony Sinnah also made similar complaints on the poor detention system.
Mr Sinnah spoke about the shortage of food in the correctional facilities and his deprivation of the opportunity to exercise within the premises.
On the health aspect, the second accused is also not satisfied with the situation.
“Although I am regularly checked, I am not given the medication I needed for better health,” he complained.
The third accused, Prince George Hughes similarly complained of challenges of blood sugar and that the prison hospital did not have the machine to check blood sugar.
“I usually call for sugar machine at home to check my status,” he said. The accused also complained about not being in a position to enjoy sunlight whilst in prison custody.
The persistent complaints have compelled the presiding judge to express dissatisfaction, and to visit the detention facilities.
“I am not satisfied with the complaints I am receiving from the accused persons’ solicitors on the welfare of their clients. These are grave concerns from the accused,” the judge said.
“These are grave concerns coming from the accused persons. I will visit the prison and speak with the Director of Prisons to ensure that the accused persons are treated fairly,” he assured.
Alfred Paolo Conteh, Lt Col. Anthony Sahr Sinnah and Prince George Hughes are first, second and third accused persons standing trial in the High Court for the aforementioned offences.
The first accused served the past government of President Koroma as Minister of Defence and Internal Affairs while the second and third accused persons are employees of the Commission on Small Arms.
They were arrested in March, this year, when it was alleged that the first accused was about to assassinate President Julius Maada Bio with a pistol and take over the administration of the state of Sierra Leone.
In the pursuance of the objective, the prosecution alleged that the registration of the weapon was facilitated by the two employees of the commission making them liable to aiding and abetting the commission of a felony to wit: treason.