Sierra Leone police summon Freetown mayor over ‘disorderly behavior’

Freetown, Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone police on Thursday (Friday in Manila) subpoenaed the mayor of the capital Freetown for questioning over alleged obstruction of policing and “disorderly conduct,” according to a letter submitted to Agence France-Presse (AFP) and approved by the mayor.

“I can confirm the letter of invitation from the police and will attend,” Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr told AFP by phone.

The letter from the criminal investigation department accused Aki-Sawyerr of “interfering with the duty of the police” and “disorderly conduct,” without giving further details.

The subpoena is likely related to an incident at the airport earlier this month.

On September 17, the mayor shared live video on social media from Freetown International Airport on her way to New York for an event to coincide with the annual UN General Assembly.

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She claimed in the video that a councilor traveling with her was escorted by airport immigration officials and handed over to police, who said they had an arrest warrant for him accused of inciting deadly protests that rocked the country in August.

Aki-Sawyerr said in the video that they were about to board their flight when they were told that Sheku Turay, the councilman who also rides Ice T, is needed at immigration.

“Half an hour later I got a call that he was arrested,” the mayor said in the video.

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According to eyewitness accounts on local media and social media, the mayor went to the police station where Turay was arrested and where an altercation took place before returning to the airport and releasing the video.

Local media reported that on September 22, the local government minister issued a separate subpoena to ask the mayor why she had traveled to New York without notifying her “supervisors” in advance.

On Thursday, Aki-Sawyerr told AFP she was “on her way” to meet him.

The event she attended in New York was hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on September 20-21.

Aki-Sawyerr, a former finance professional with a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2016 for her efforts in fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone.

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She was elected mayor in 2018 and has had a number of run-ins with authorities in recent months.

Earlier this year, she was fined by the anti-graft agency and ordered to reimburse travel expenses for an alleged unauthorized employee, but denied any wrongdoing.

Last month she claimed the information secretary and the president’s press secretary had falsely accused her of instigating the deadly August 10 protests.

“This deliberate and continued action to publicly make false allegations has already resulted in constant attacks on me on social media and attempts at physical assault on (Freetown City Council) property,” she wrote on social media.

The presidential elections in Sierra Leone are scheduled for June 2023.