‘Weaponizing’ Judiciary against Political Opponents’

-Cummings Accuses Gov’t

MONROVIA-The ANC leader, Alexander B. Cummings, has accused President George Weah’s government of “weaponizing” the judiciary to attack the country’s opposition parties, as he reacted to the release of a report of an investigation that cleared him of forgery allegations.

Claims that he tampered with the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Framework Document “does not withstand scrutiny, provides no reliable substantiation for the allegations it purported to uphold and is a wholly unsafe basis for any criminal prosecution”.

This was the main point of the findings of the investigation by Cherie Blair, the wife of Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, through her law firm Omnia Strategy, and Alaco a London-based business intelligence and investigations firm, which was commissioned by Cummings in February this year.

The allegations of tampering made by the All Liberian Party (ALP) now forms the basis of an ongoing prosecution against Cummings and his co-defendants who have always denied the accusations of forgery and criminal conspiracy.

During a virtual press conference on Tuesday to release the report, Cummings was critical of the action taken against him.

He said he welcomed the “detailed and comprehensive report” after “politically motivated allegations” had attempted to impugn his integrity and character

“I’m deeply offended by these baseless allegations,” he said.

“The findings of the report are conclusive.

“With the baselessness of the accusations against me now laid bare, the truth – that this was a politicized attempt to impugn my integrity and derail our movement for real change – may prevail.

“I have always stood firm and calm when the government has violated my own democratic rights.

“But I could not remain calm as the government-orchestrated this trial, which has been an assault on the democratic rights of all Liberians and the values of the international democratic community,” Cummings added.

The unprecedented step was taken against Cummings and his co-defendants came after the CPP spectacularly imploded amid acrimonious arguments over the veracity of the Framework Document that was presented to the National Elections Commission (NEC).

The document was meant to map out the strategy of the four political parties within the CPP – the ANC, the Liberty Party (LP), the All Liberian Party (ALP) and Unity Party (UP) – formed in April 2020 to put up a united front against President Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in next year’s presidential and legislative elections.

But after it was submitted to the NEC in July 2020, Benoni Urey, leader of the ALP, claimed that Cummings and two other senior members of the ANC tampered with the agreement prior to its submission.

This followed a CPP Investigative Committee Report into the matter.

In disregarding the CPP Report, the Omnia-Alaco findings noted: “Ultimately, the simple fact is that the Framework Document as filed with the NEC on 14 July 2020 had been duly reviewed, discussed, approved, endorsed and signed by the relevant leaders of the Constituent Parties.

“The existence of substantial differences between the original draft and later versions of the Framework Document is not in dispute, but nor is it untoward.

“Such an evolution is the logical and expected consequence of the iterative process of negotiating the Framework Document.

“In particular, the amendments proposed as a result of the CPP parties’ legal review of the draft text were reviewed and approved by the constituent parties prior to registration of the Framework Document with the NEC,” the findings added.

 

The Omnia-Alaco investigators said that the fact that the Chairman of the CPP Investigative Committee, Theodore Momo of the ALP, “played a prominent role in the multilateral review of the Framework Document and therefore had direct knowledge of how the process had unfolded, gives rise to questions not just about the CPP Investigative Committee’s competence, but also about its motives”.

During the press conference at which the findings of the legal experts were released, Mrs. Blair said: “Despite all the details, individuals and parties involved, the accusations against Mr. Cummings follow a classical arc: someone has conspired to fix a process to his own advantage but got caught.

“The only problem is that for all the noise and furor, in this case there was no fixing – and there was no conspiracy, at least not on the part of Alexander Cummings.

“Whatever the reason, be it lack of capacity, negligence or something more malign, the CPP Investigative Committee overlooked key evidence and made obvious factual errors in reaching their conclusions,” Mrs. Blair added.

Cummings was asked how Liberians would view his decision to turn to an external law organization to undertake a forensic investigation on his behalf and whether the legal system in Liberia was so compromised that he had to take such action.

He said he believed that Liberians would understand his position because the judiciary had been compromised and, because he had to “protect his integrity and character”, he had to look elsewhere to clear his name.

However, ALP leader Urey, in his initial reaction to the Omnia-Alaco report took umbrage at Cummings turning to a British lawyer to investigate an ongoing case in the Liberian courts.

He told The New Republic: “This certainly would not be allowed in the UK.”

Urey said that the whole exercise was biased in favor of the ANC leader because he commissioned the investigation.

However, according to the ANC, Cummings had “instructed Mrs. Blair’s team to report without fear or favor”.

But the ALP leader also said that the exercise was one-sided, arguing: “Did the investigators speak to me, to [Joseph] Boakai [leader of UP] or the legal teams on both sides?”

However, the investigation team said that it looked purely at evidence from a technical perspective and that was why its members did not interview people close to the case.

Mrs. Blair also pointed out that the investigation did not review the ongoing court case.

But both Mrs. Blair and Cummings agreed that in light of the findings of the Omnia-Alaco report, it was difficult to see how the court case against the ANC leader would continue.

Speaking about the CPP split, Cummings said it was “unfortunate” and “disappointing” that it happened.

But he was upbeat about the prospect of the rump CPP, which still has the ANC and LP as members, urging other like-minded parties to join the coalition.

“Although the LP and UP have departed, the idea of a united opposition against President Weah to make him a one-term leader has not disappeared,” Cummings said.–

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