Sierra Leone rebel chief's wife takes Britain to court

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The Independent Online

The wife of the captured Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh has launched proceedings in a British court in an attempt to have him released from custody.

The wife of the captured Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh has launched proceedings in a British court in an attempt to have him released from custody.

Fatou Mbaye Sankoh has issued a writ of habeas corpus at the High Court in London, trying to discover where he is. She claims she has not heard from him since he was handed over to the Sierra Leone authorities by British troops in May.

Sankoh is still considered leader of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which ousted President Tejan Kabbah from power in 1997. Earlier this year the RUF started more insurrections, leading to the deployment of British troops.

In a statement to the court by Mrs Sankoh's solicitor, Jack Rabinowicz, she said her husband was seized by a "combined" force involving British troops before being handed over to the Sierra Leone government. The statement referred to an incident on 17 May when Sankoh returned to his house in the capital, Freetown, apparently isolated and no longer in control of the rebels.

He stopped a passer-by and asked for help in getting to the Nigerian high commission. But the man alerted a nearby paramilitary group, and after a confrontation in which Sankoh drew a revolver, both he and a male companion were shot.

Sankoh was later handed over to the regular Sierra Leone army. He was taken from Freetown by British paratroopers and then flown to Lungi airport in British protective custody.

Yesterday both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office said they did not know where Sankoh was. A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The simple answer is that he was never in our custody. We helped transport him at the request if the Sierra Leone government. President Kabbah says that he is being held in custody and that is good enough for us."

Mr Rabinowicz said: "It is phenomenal that the British say they have no idea where he is. Mrs Sankoh is very worried."

The Sierra Leone government has asked the UN to set up an international tribunal to try Sankoh for war crimes.

Meanwhile. The UN force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley of India, has told the Security Council he needs "many more troops" to carry out the mission to uphold the 1999 peace agreement.

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