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Liberia29 October 2002

President agrees to release journalist Hassan Bility

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed Liberian President Charles Taylor’s decision to free Hassan Bility, editor of the privately-owned weekly The Analyst, who has been held in a secret place for the past four months, but said it was concerned about the conditions for his release.

Taylor said on 28 October that Bility and other prisoners would be released if they signed a statement "acknowledging" that they would be rearrested "in the event of any violations," which he did not define. "This is not a total release or a parole, but a form of reprieve," the president said. No date was announced for the release.

"Freeing a journalist and then preventing him from doing his job, under pain of arrest, is a form of censorship," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Taylor urging him to free Bility unconditionally without the threat of new imprisonment.

Bility, whose paper is very critical of President Taylor, was arrested on 24 June and accused of collaborating with rebels of the group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy based in the north of the country. Jailed without trial and in a secret place, he was considered a prisoner of war, to be tried by a military court.

Taylor’s announcement came after international demands for news of Bility’s whereabouts and for him to be formally charged, in accordance with the law.



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