Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Freetown - An American man and two Sierra Leoneans charged with plotting to help former Liberian president Charles Taylor escape from jail at a war crime court were on Wednesday granted bail of about $8 000 each.
Michael Chemidlin, a 58-year-old former US soldier from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, was first arrested in early May for photographing the compound of the joint United Nations-Sierra Leone war crimes court in Freetown.
He and Sierra Leoneans Felix Rogers and Collins Kamara were re-arrested last week, one day after another judge ruled that there was no law against photographing the UN-backed tribunal. They
have now been charged with conspiracy for "inspecting" the court.
Chemidlin has said he is innocent.
His family in New Jersey has called the arrest a
misunderstanding and said the Iraq veteran was travelling to Sierra Leone on a religious proselytising trip, and to take in the sights.
"This was his first time in Africa, and I imagine he was taking pictures for the same reason he took them in Iraq," his son Andrew Chemidlin, 31, was quoted as telling The Newark Star Ledger. "He was doing the tourist thing."
Magistrate Sam Margai said Chemidlin - who is suffering from malaria and muscle pains according to his lawyer - should be referred to a hospital for treatment. A hearing was set for this
Taylor, who escaped from a Massachusetts jail in 1985, is charged with funding rebels who burned down villages and hacked off people's limbs during the country's war.
Sierra Leone's treason laws prohibit photographing certain government installations but Chemidlin's lawyer argued that the UN-backed war crimes court - considered international territory - was not covered by the law. - Sapa-AP