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Legislative assistant sentenced to prison for expressing his views on bribery scandal

(MFWA/IFEX) - Without a legal counsel, Darius Dillion, assistant to Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, was on 26 February 2008 sentenced to six months' imprisonment by the Liberia House of Representatives, for expressing his views on a bribery scandal in the Lower House.

Dillion's plea for a lawyer was ignored by the Lower House even though Liberia's laws guarantee the right of an accused to legal counsel.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that the plenary found Dillion guilty of "legislative contempt".

In 2007, the representative for electoral district no. 5 in Montserrado County, Edwin Snowe, was removed as speaker as a result of an alleged bribery case. The Lower House rejected an independent probe into the matter and instead launched an internal probe, conducted by the House Judiciary Committee.

Dillion has been a strong advocate for an independent probe into the bribery allegations. An independent investigation was also called for by representatives of many partners in Liberia, including the United Nations, the European Union and the United States of America.

Dillion participated in several talk-shows at numerous local radio stations, including Star Radio, and disclosed that the Judiciary Committee intends to expel former speaker Edwin Snowe. Dillion also alleged that the committee intends to suspend the Representatives who initially disclosed that each Representative of the Lower House received US$5,000 to ensure Snowe's removal.

The Plenary considered the statements as pre-judging the outcome of the probe and cited Dillion for contempt of the Legislature.

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