Liberia: Call for Independent Investigation Into Critic's Death

By James Butty
Courtesy of VOA

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 15, 2015



Simeon Freeman of Movement for Progressive Change
Photo: Courtesy of Parrotnews

A Liberian opposition leader is calling for an independent investigation into the mysterious death of a government critic – Harry Greaves – whose naked body was discovered last month on the beach behind the Liberian ministry of foreign affairs building in Monrovia. 

An American pathologist hired by the Liberian government said Greaves died from drowning.

Simeon Freeman, leader of the opposition Movement for Progressive Change in Liberia, is wanted for questioning by the police after accusing the government of having a blacklist of politicians and critics of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Freeman also questioned Greaves' alleged drowning.

He called VOA from an undisclosed location in Africa to say that what he’s wanted for saying represents the prevailing sentiments in the country. 

“These are not even my expressions. We are public figures and we read things in the public space. When you turn on a radio station in the morning, you hear tons of what callers say; when you read social media, you see tons of what people say; when you read newspapers, in fact in one of the newspapers, there was a blacklist, that people should be careful,” he said.

Freeman said when public figures like himself see that someone like Harry Greaves died under mysterious circumstances, they have a responsibility to elevate the conversation by bringing the public’s concerns to the attention of policy makers.

“The greatest threat to national security is not my presence or things that I have said. The greatest threat to national security is the underfunding of the police that has made it a vehicle to be exploited by criminals and criminal elements. When people go to bed and have no security, that's the greatest threat. So it’s the action of policy makers that’s causing the threat, and not those who talk about it,” he said.

He repeated comments attributed to him earlier in the Liberia press that the late Greaves had enemies within the Liberian government.

“Obviously, Harry Greaves was a serious champion for cheap electricity. Harry Greaves' letter that was published by FrontPage Africa showed some of the strong opposition that he had to deal with regarding the electricity issue. So he took on a monumental thing, and obviously that generated for him strong enemies,” Freeman said.

Autopsy report

The government hired a team of U.S. pathologists headed by Dr. Thomas Bennet from the state of Montana.

Despite repeated requests to several government agencies, including the police and information ministry, no one from the Liberian government was immediately available to comment on the death of Harry Greaves.

But according to reports in the local media, Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict Sannoh said: “The probable cause of death is as a result of salt water drowning, there is no gross evidence of ante-mortem traumatic injuries. The findings include multiple post-mortem blunt traumatic muscular skeleton injuries as skin changes consistent with prolong immersion in sea water and in part on ocean rocks”, Sannoh said.

Also, the Justice Minister disclosed that there was no evidence of sodomy as reported in the media.

Freeman said there should be an independent investigation of Mr. Greaves’ death because the pathologist hired by the government has a tainted record.

He said if the Liberian government wants to act in good faith, it must set up a committee representing political parties, civil society, and the Council of Churches that will find a pathologist with a good record to come to Liberia and do a second autopsy.

Freeman said he has every legitimate reason to be afraid of the Liberian police because there have been a number of mysterious deaths of high-profile individuals whose killers have yet to be apprehended

“I was attacked in the street, and we made contact with very powerful people near our capital who are very committed to the practice of democracy, and they were able to get us out of Liberia. That’s all I can say at this stage,” Freeman said.

For starters, we agree with a Daily Observer editorial entitled “Stop the Pre – Election Nervousness – Leave Simon Freeman Alone. And, to the heart of the matter, the MPC leader’s call for “an independent investigation of Mr. Greaves’ death” resonates though not “because the pathologist hired by the government has a tainted record”. That would necessitate bringing in another pathologist, hence the beginning of long - drawn - out contending expert opinions. Of course, that tussle wouldn’t provide evidence for motive, and who did it, in spite of the fact that Susan Smith and many convicted murderers are in US prisons for killing their victims by fake drowning. Moreover, his body was reportedly turned over to the family for burial. This is why the Gongloe proposal that the investigation should “go beyond autopsy reports” has the best chance of solving the case.

Some commenters continuously chastised others regarding speculations about the death of Harry Greaves. But that’s what readers do when the authorities have no plausible explanations, or the ministry of justice seems satisfied in substituting postmortem examination reports for painstaking police collection of information from the following sources: witnesses, trace evidence, victim’s phone logs, video cameras, etc. Matter - of - factly, homicide detectives are trained to not accept unusual deaths at face value, so too do ours. They’ve gut – feelings, develop theories, imagine scenarios, form leads, and from recent published MOJ communications in FPA we now know that LNP was investigating Harry’s death. For heaven’s sakes, government must give them support to take a serious crack at this case in order to dispel growing perception that there is “more than meets the eye”.

sylvestermoses at 10:50PM, 2016/02/17.
Sylvester Moses
Reference the escape of charismatic, issues - specific critic, and opposition party leader Simeon Freeman, President Sirleaf should seek somewhere quiet to sob secretly from shame. Mind you, she rode to political fame as a critic of bad governance, and calling officials he knew nothing about idiots and killersGHN43. For crying out loud, who would've thought that his militarized police unit could threatened such mindless violence like to barricade a citizen' s residence based on a whim that it's a crime scene.
Sylvester Moses at 07:40AM, 2016/02/18.
Sylvester Moses

Lots of typos above including changing the gender of the Iron Lady to male via "his militarized police unit". Perhaps, it isn't typo just a subconscious expression to reconcile her macho persona.
Sylvester Moses at 07:56AM, 2016/02/18.
Joseph Bombo
Mr. Sylvester Moses

Concerning Mr. Simeon Freeman going into a hiding, I wonder why did he do that? He is only wanted for questioning.

What would you have done differently Mr. Moses if you were the head of the government's security apparatus and a high profile person is being murdered; while the investigation remains inconclusive an opposition party leader comes out and begins to tell the public that the president has a black list which is purportedly designed to target certain members of the society?

After a while he responds to an interview from some remote area to the VOA broadcasting network that his assertions were simply based on the rumors that he was hearing.

Leaders of political parties are people with high analytical and cognitive abilities. They think dynamically and logically and do not jump to conclusions. With the exception that he might have joined the bandwagon and began circulating vicious and unverifiable rumors, then he has nothing to be afraid of.

This is what the Liberian constitution states concerning the national security of the state:

The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility, their natural rights, and the blessings of life; and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.

This quote is a two-way street. Government has the right to protect, "the existence of the body politic..." of which we the citizens are all a part of. Notwithstanding, if it fails to deliver on this social compact then the citizens also have the right to "alter" it.

Mr. Freeman's call might be in good faith; and government is not acting out of its realm. The murders of our high profile citizens are becoming alarming.

Besides Mr. Freeman I think that it could be the most patriotic thing to do that those who feel that they can assist the security apparatus to solve these crimes to do so, and stop hiding behind the veil of rumors and causing more public alarm.
Joseph Bombo at 09:40AM, 2016/02/20.
Sylvester Moses
“What would you have done differently Mr. Moses if you were the head of the government's security apparatus and a high profile person is being murdered”?

Thank you, Mr. James Bomboo, for a perceptive question. In the absence of other evidence except the expert opinions of those pathologists, I would’ve discounted the theory of death by accidental drowning, and investigated it as a “suspicious homicide”. According to a Frontpageafrica story, it was the original position of Director Massaquoi. That was before the Justice Minister became the spokesman for LNP, and started pummeling the press and everyone who didn’t buy the official version. Additionally, I wouldn’t have sent a heavily – armed riot unit ostensibly to serve an opposition leader a warrant, barricade his house, terrorize his family, and put his neighborhood in mortal fear. Especially, considering that it was the second drowning death of a VIP alleging financial shenanigans by high government officials. So the readiness of MOJ to carte blanc accept a drowning conclusion for “suspicious homicides”, and, in the case of Allison, to impugn on a deceased’s character, instead of finding out how he died, drove mounting fear – induced perceptions of government conspiracy.

For example, although the allegations weren’t true, most Americans blamed the Clinton administration for the deaths of 77 people during the 1993 siege on a ranch in Waco, Texas. Gulf war veterans Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in retaliation bombed a Federal building in Oklahoma City, two years later, killing 168, and injuring 680 in the worst incident of domestic terrorism in the US. The fact of the matter, James, is that EJS has no “black list”, but Simeon verbalized – as expected of a politician – the widely expressed scared sentiments and negative perceptions in Monrovia to stoke an independent impartial investigation. That’s the crux of his speech, and the excessive projection of force by a militarized police unit is now seen as a scare tactic to crush any talk of an enquiry. And, James, I agree with you “that Mr. Freeman's call might be in good faith; and government is not acting out of its realm. The murders of our high profile citizens are becoming alarming”. Moreover, there could be bad brazen killers out there, and they would kill again by other methods, therefore, an independent inquiry is required.

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