By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In a significant development, the High Court of Sierra Leone has modified the bail conditions for former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, allowing him to travel outside the country to seek medical attention. The decision, handed down on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, comes after a formal application by Koroma’s lawyer, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, supported by a medical report (SB 001) and an affidavit sworn by Saidu Bangura on January 12, 2024.
Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, Lead Counsel for Koroma, expressed apologies to the court for his client’s absence, attributing it to health reasons. The court, presided over by Justice S.O. Taylor, considered the medical report and granted the former President permission to travel to the Federal Republic of Nigeria for medical treatment.
The court order stipulates that the Accused/Applicant, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, remains released on bail, with the modification allowing him to be in Nigeria for a maximum period of three months from the date of the order.
During his stay abroad, his sureties are required to provide regular medical updates, signed and duly authorized by a specialist doctor, addressing the former President’s medical condition. These updates are to be sent to the Master and Registrar of the High Court while he is outside the jurisdiction.
The court emphasized that the Accused/Applicant must continue to adhere to the other terms of the previously granted bail conditions. The case has been adjourned to March 6, 2024.
The decision to grant travel permission comes amid speculation about a deal between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to facilitate the former president’s relocation to Nigeria. The ECOWAS Commission President, Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, visited Sierra Leone for the second time since the failed coup attempt in November. However, no official statement has been made regarding any such agreement.
Former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who served as President for 11 years until 2018, faces charges of treason and other offenses. The attempted coup occurred five months after a disputed election that saw the current President, Julius Maada Bio, re-elected for a second term. Koroma’s daughter, Dankay Koroma, has been named as a suspect in the investigation but has not issued any comments on the matter.