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Sierra Leone28 July 2006

Newspaper editor’s killers still at large a year after his death

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the memory of For Di People acting editor Harry Yansaneh on the first anniversary of his death and called on the judicial authorities to relaunch the investigation into the severe beating he received two and a half months before he died.

“We voice our support for the Sierra Leonean journalists, human rights organisations and relatives who are holding events in Freetown today to mark this tragic death that traumatised the country’s press,” the organisation said.

“At a time when the authorities and the international community are welcoming the progress being made by Sierra Leone’s judicial apparatus, we appeal to the justice minister to reopen this case so that Yansaneh’s death does not remain unpunished,” Reporters Without Borders added.

Yansaneh was badly beaten on 10 May 2005 by associates of ruling party parliamentarian Fatmata Hassan Komeh who, according to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), “was not happy over the content of the paper.” Yansaneh filed a complaint with the police after the attack, but no action was taken.

According to the investigation that was conducted into his death, Yansaneh already suffered renal insufficiency but his death was “accelerated by the beating.” A jury concluded that it was “a case of involuntary manslaughter” and judge Adrien Fisher issued warrants for the arrest of Hassan Komeh and two of her sons who were suspected of being involved in the attack.

But justice minister Frederick Carew has until now refused to execute the warrants, arguing that the charges are not enough to justify their arrest since the medical report attributed Yansaneh’s death to chronic renal insufficiency. Hassan Komeh was questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department in August 2005 and then released.

Reporters Without Borders calls for an end to the impunity that she is enjoying and for international warrants to be issued for the arrest of her two sons, currently in the United Kingdom.

During a visit to Sierra Leone on 20 July, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz said he applauded “the efforts of people to try to get to the bottom of [this case] and the efforts to build a strong free press in this country because I think that’s one of the keys to having institutions that are accountable to the people and institutions that will not open the door again to this kind of tragedy.”

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