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Newspaper editor in detention for criticising president's silence on gifts from Libyan leader

(MFWA/IFEX) - Philip Neville, publisher and editor of privately-owned "Standard Times" was arrested on June 28, 2007 and detained at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters in Freetown, for allegedly publishing subversive materials. Although he has not being charged, the police have refused to grant him bail.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) reported that the deputy director of CID, Amara Sesay, told the journalist's lawyer that Neville would not be granted bail because the matter involves the state.

A team of policemen led by inspector A.A Mansaray on June 27 conducted a search at the newspaper's offices looking for subversive documents suspected to be in possession of the newspaper. Neville, who was absent at the time of the search, was later questioned at the CID's Headquarters and allowed to go home, before his arrest the following day.

In its June 27 edition, the "Standard Times" newspaper alleged on its front-page that Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi, the Libyan President, exposed the Sierra Leonean government by announcing at a rally that he had donated money and food items to the people. The article headlined: "BOMBSHELL, COL. Gaddafi Exposes Government" said the Sierra Leoneans felt disappointed because the government had not informed them of the gesture.

Meanwhile the government had in a press statement debunked the newspaper's story describing it as "not only mischievous, malicious, inciting but also calculated to bring the president into hatred and excite public disaffection against the president".

The statement said the matter has been refereed to the Office of the Attorney-General and minister of justice for necessary action.

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