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Liberia court acquits former interim president of embezzlement charges

[JURIST] The Criminal Court in Liberia [JURIST news archive] on Friday acquitted former interim president Gyude Bryant [BBC profile] of embezzlement charges. The former leader was charged [JURIST report] with the embezzlement of $1.4 million during his interim presidency, which lasted from October 2003 to January 2006. The charges stemmed from an audit conducted by the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) [official website], the organization that oversaw the interim government of Liberia following nearly 14 years of civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Bryant was acquitted for lack of evidence, along with four others [Liberia Star Radio report] including former speaker of the House of Representatives, Edwin Snowe [BBC Backgrounder].

Current Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [BBC profile] was elected in 2005 [JURIST report] and made campaign promises to address rampant corruption in the nation. In 2007, following his arrest, Bryant's defense lawyers urged the court to block his prosecution, arguing that Bryant was entitled to presidential immunity under the Liberian constitution [text]. Government lawyers, however, successfully argued that Bryant should not be entitled to immunity [Inquirer report] because he served as a caretaker and not a democratically elected president. Bryant was appointed by regional peace brokers to head Liberia after the civil war.

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