Newspaper editor Paul Kamara is still in prison because a judge rejected his release request on a very minor technicality. The judge, Akiiki Kiiza, ruled on 22 April that the request was unacceptable because it was not signed by Kamara in person. In fact, the request was signed by his wife on 15 March using a power of attorney.
Kamara’s lawyer, Joseph O.D Cole, has said he intends to appeal. Kamara, the editor of the weekly For Di People and a journalist whose relations with the government have long been strained, was sentenced in October 2004 to four years in prison under a 1965 law whose enforcement has repeatedly been condemned by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and the Lawyers Centre for Legal Assistance (LAWCLA).
2.03.2005 Imprisoned newspaper editor put in solitary confinement, in top-security cell
Reporters Without Borders wrote today to the UN secretary-general’s special representative in Sierra Leone voicing concern about reports that Paul Kamara, the editor of the daily For Di People, has been transferred to the high-security cell where former rebel chief Foday Sanko of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was held until he died in 2003.
The organization asked the special representative, who also heads the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), "to shed light on these reports and, if appropriate, to ensure that Kamara’s rights as a prisoner are respected."
According to information received by Reporters Without Borders, four prison guards burst into Kamara’s cell shortly after 8 p.m. on 22 February and tried to drag him to Sankoh’s former cell, which is only used for dangerous detainees. Kamara refused to go. This violent incident took place a few days after a search was carried out in his cell for unclear motives in the course of which his food stocks were confiscated.
Following the initial, unsuccessful attempt to move Kamara, the prison authorities succeeded in transferring him to the high-security cell on 25 February. He is reportedly still being held there, in solitary confinement.
In its letter to the head of UNAMSIL, Reporters Without Borders voiced "serious concern about these unlawful procedures, which have no place in a democracy."
The letter continued: "Not only is Mr. Kamara being detained on what are, in our view, spurious grounds, but it seems he is now the target of a campaign of harassment that goes far beyond any judicial procedure. If it is correct that he is now being treated as a dangerous criminal and is henceforth being kept in solitary confinement, in the cell where the RUF chief was held, it would constitute a gross human rights violation and an extremely serious attack on press freedom."
Reporters Without Borders ended the letter by reiterating its call for the immediate release of Kamara, who was sentenced to a total of four years in prison in October 2004 for "seditiously" libelling President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
President Kabbah brought a libel action against Kamara over an article in the 3 October 2003 issue of For di People headlined, "Speaker of Parliament challenge! Kabbah is a true convict!"
The report said a commission of enquiry had in 1968 found Kabbah - then finance minister - guilty of fraud. It also said it was unconstitutional of the parliamentary speaker to maintain that Kabbah enjoys immunity from prosecution as president.