A political crisis that has been unfolding in Sierra Leone took a dramatic turn Friday when police stormed the headquarters of the country’s bar association in the capital of Freetown, breaking up a meeting of lawyers who had convened to discuss whether President Ernest Bai Koroma’s decision to fire his vice president without parliamentary approval last Wednesday was unconstitutional.
Police reportedly disrupted the meeting at the request of 10 bar association members affiliated with the incumbent All People’s Congress (APC) political party. The lawyers in attendance were preparing to cast votes in support of a document demanding that Koroma rescind his actions.
A lawyer who witnessed the raid reported on social media that 150 bar members fled outside, where they staged a protest by holding up signs and singing Sierra Leone’s national anthem. Police reportedly responded by “violently” tearing signs from the hands of some lawyers. One lawyer was “brutally manhandled, bundled, and thrown into a police van,” before being transported to a central police station, where he was held for at least an hour.
“It was a touching sight to see several dozen lawyers, several of whom were very senior practitioners, peacefully process behind the police van to the police station,” Andrew Johnson, a legal counsel at the Law Reform Commission of Sierra Leone, wrote in a Facebook post. “At the station, lawyers vowed never to leave the station until their colleague was released.”
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