Jailed Liberian Journalist Set Free

By: Jonathan Paye-Layleh

(AP) A Liberian journalist was released after more than five months in detention on condition the U.S. Embassy ensured he left this troubled West African country, the government said Sunday.

Liberian security forces handed over Hassan Bility to the U.S. Embassy on Saturday after American officials expressed concern about the journalist’s continued detention, Liberian Information Minister Reginald Goodridge said.

U.S. Ambassador John William Blaney and other embassy officials later escorted Bility to the airport, where he boarded a commercial flight bound for Ghana’s capital, Accra. It was not immediately clear whether that was his final destination.

Goodridge said the release was “part of this government’s constructive engagement with the U.S. government,” adding Liberia still regarded Bility as a “terrorist.”

Embassy officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bility is editor of The Analyst, an independent weekly frequently critical of the government. Authorities arrested him and at least 10 other members of his Mandingo tribe on June 24.

The government accused Bility of aiding Liberia’s northern-based rebels and of plotting to assassinate President Charles Taylor. A military tribunal later ruled him a prisoner of war.

The U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, and Reporters without Borders, among others, expressed concern for Bility’s safety in custody after he was denied access to relatives, human rights groups, and the media.

Those arrested with Bility remained in detention Sunday.

Taylor, a former warlord, won elections in 1997 after a devastating seven-year civil war.

Rebels since have fought a three-year campaign to topple Taylor, the Boston-educated descendant of the freed American slaves who founded Liberia. The insurgents include former fighters in the civil war.

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