Ernest Bai Koroma: Sierra Leone ex-president charged with treason over attempted coup

President KoromaIMAGE SOURCE,UMARU FOFANAImage caption,
President Koroma was in court as the charges were read out
By Umaru FofanaBBC News, Freetown

Former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has been charged with treason and other offences in connection with an attempted coup.Last November, gunmen broke into a military armoury and several prisons in Freetown, freeing almost 2,000 inmates.He has denied any involvement in the attack which killed about 20 people.West African leaders had tried to broker a deal for Mr Koroma to go into exile in Nigeria if the charges were dropped, the BBC understands.The BBC has seen a letter saying Mr Koroma had agreed to the deal, brokered by the regional group, Ecowas.However, Sierra Leone Foreign Minster Timothy Kabba told the BBC the government did not support the proposal, which he described as a “unilateral proposition” by the president of the Ecowas Commission.

Some of Mr Koroma’s supporters cried in court as the charges were read out.The former president’s lawyer, Joseph Kamara, told the BBC he was “shocked and in utter disbelief”, saying the charges set 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.Mr Koroma has been under house arrest since being questioned over the coup.He was president for 11 years until 2018, when current President Julius Maada Bio was elected.On Tuesday, 12 other people were charged over the attempted coup, including one of Mr Koroma’s former bodyguards.The former president’s daughter, Dankay Koroma, has previously been named on a list of wanted suspects by police. She has not commented.

The attempted coup came five months after a disputed election which saw President Bio narrowly re-elected for a second term.The results were rejected by Mr Koroma’s All People’s Congress. International observers also criticised the elections, highlighting a lack of transparency in the count.

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