Sierra Leone: War criminal admits to violating release terms

AP News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2016 2:58 PM

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — A former militia leader convicted of war crimes during Sierra Leone's civil war admitted on Friday to attending a political meeting, a violation of the terms of his early release.

Moinina Fofana also acknowledged during Friday's hearing that he had failed to check in with police as required — another violation that prompted a judge to order his re-arrest last week.

Fofana was convicted by a United Nations-backed special court in 2007 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, cruel treatment and pillage. He received a 15-year sentence and was held in Rwanda before being granted early release in March of last year, making him the first person to be released after being convicted by the court.

He returned to his community in the city of Bo, where he was to serve the rest of his time under "strict conditions and stringent monitoring."

Fofana initially denied breaking any rules after he was re-arrested on March 10. But on Friday he admitted to attending a youth league meeting for the ruling All People's Congress party in the city of Makeni.

His defense attorney, Melron Nicol-Wilson, said Friday that Fofana had never had formal schooling and did not understand the terms of his release. The prosecution rejected that justification but did not object to Fofana's temporary release.

He was released Friday on bail for an unspecified health issue pending the next hearing, as court officials try to determine whether his early release will be revoked. That hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Sierra Leone's brutal civil war lasted from 1991 to 2002. Fofana's government-allied militia, the Civil Defense Forces, used a network of tribe-based hunters to fight various rebel groups.

Fofana was one of three leading members of the Civil Defense Forces arrested in 2003 and charged with war crimes by the U.N.-backed court. The charges were controversial, as many argued the militia was key to restoring order in the war-ravaged country.

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This story has been corrected to show that Fofana admitted attending, but not speaking at, the political meeting.