Clashes, arrests after S. Leone court unseats 10 opposition MPs

President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma waves to supporters of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party during a rally ahead of the March 7 presidential election in Makeni, Sierra Leone, in this March 5, 2018 file photo. — Reuters

FREETOWN — The Sierra Leone high court on Friday revoked the parliamentary seats of ten leading opposition party legislators, wiping out their majority in the chamber and prompting clashes with police on the streets of Freetown.

The court took the action against 10 of the 16 deputies of the he opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) who were being prosecuted for alleged breaches of electoral law linked to the legislative elections which took place in March 2018.

The court also ordered an election re-run for a parliamentary seat near Freetown.

Nine of the deputies were kicked out immediately and replace by candidates of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) who had come second in last year's elections. The tenth will be replaced in a by-election.

APC lawyers said they intended to take the case to the supreme court.

Just minutes after the court ruling, violence erupted between APC supporters and police at the party headquarters in Freetown.

Dozens of people were arrested for rioting, including senior party executives and former ministers, according to a police source.

"Our supporters were teargassed in our party office for hours, by the police, the main opposition party's secretary general Alhaji Foday Yanssaneh said.

"Our party office was also vandalized and looted during the riot by the police. It's is very sad day for our democracy," Yanssaneh added.

The court decision effectively wipes out the APC majority in parliament,

The figures as they stand now are SLPP 58 seats and APC 57 seats

"It's a victory for our party and the rule of law," ruling party spokesman Lahai Lawrence Leema said amidst jubilation at their party headquarters.

Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits but the former British colony remains one of the world's poorest nations and is only gradually recovering from a 1991-2000 civil war which left some 120,000 dead.

A 2014-2016 outbreak of Ebola and falls in the price of raw materials also dealt the country further major blows. — AFP