Former Sierra Leone President Facing Treason Charges Over Alleged Coup Involvement

Former Sierra Leone President Facing Treason Charges Over Alleged Coup Involvement

The failed coup in the West African country took place just five months after the current president was elected.

The former president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, been charged with treason for his alleged involvement in a failed coup attempt, The Associated Press reported.

On Nov. 26, 2023, several gunman attempted an attack on Freetown, the nation’s capital, by breaking into Sierra Leone’s key armory and a prison, freeing some its 2,000 inmates. Close to 18 members of the security forces were killed and more than 50 suspects, including military officers, have been arrested so far. The Sierra Leone government issued a statement on Jan. 3 that Koroma faces additional charges of misprision of treason, which by definition is the crime of concealing knowledge of treasonable acts.

According to The BBC, Koroma has denied any involvement in the deadly attack. West African leaders tried to negotiate a deal for the former leader to be exiled in Nigeria if the charges were dropped. A letter showed he agreed to the deal, but Sierra Leone Foreign Minster Timothy Kabba said the government was not in support of it, describing the proposal as a “unilateral proposition” by the president of the Ecowas Commission.

Koroma’s lawyer, Joseph Kamara, said he was “shocked and in utter disbelief” and called the charges a “dangerous precedent.”

“A dark cloud has shadowed the skies of our country, meaning that we are dragging a former head of state – democratically elected – on trumped-up charges under a political vendetta,” he said.

Since being questioned for this involvement, Koroma has been on house arrest.

He served as president for the West African nation for 11 years until 2018 when current President Julius Maada Bio was elected – just five months after the attempted coup. Tensions were high after the results were rejected by Koroma’s All People’s Congress, as well as facing international criticism, highlighting the lack of transparency in the election count.

Koroma has officially retired from his political life but still remains a heavy influence within his party, often playing host to other dignitaries in his hometown of Makeni.

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