The revolutionary council headed by Master Sgt. Samuel K. Doe has announced that 91 members of the government ousted a week ago will be tried on charges of treason, corruption or violation of human rights.
At least 28 persons, including President William R. Tolbert, died during the enlisted men's takeover and another four were executed yesterday on charges of looting. Three of the four gunned down by a firing squard were soldiers. Doe said the executions were intended "as an example" to align the population with the aims of the ruling People's Redemption Council.
As Doe reopened the West African country to commercial air traffic and allowed in the first foreign correspondents since the coup, informed sources here said that its perpetrators were elite noncommissioned officers who received training from U.S. Special Forces a year ago.
Several members of the Tolbert's constitutionally elected government testified yesterday before the six-judge military tribunal hearing treason and corruption charges.
The late president's brother Frank, who was president pro tem of the Senate, acknowledged having assets of more than $500,000 as well as seven apartments and seven homes. Liberia uses the U.S. dollar as its currency.
Frank Tolbert denied having committeed treason as did another close associate of the president, former house speaker Richard Henries -- who did acknowledge governmental corruption, charging that it started at the top with presidential nepotism.
A close observer here said he did not believe reports that the leftist People's Progressive Party, whose leaders have taken top roles in the new government, played a role in the coup.
"I doubt if Doe met with these people before the coup," he said. About 50 members of the then officially banned party were in jail at the time. They were arrested in early March on charges of sedition after calling for a general strike to bring down Tolbert's government.
The party members had been held at the stockade of the Barclay Training Center, where the coup reportedly was plotted. They were quickly freed and the camp's commander, Maj. S. Capehart, was killed.
"All of the PPP People had been beaten," said an informed source who saw them immediately after their release, "and the camp commander has personally participated in the beatings."
Tolbert's body was on display at the morgue in the John F. Kennedy Hospital here on Sunday and Monday. He and 27 other people killed in the coup were buried in a mass grave Tuesday afternoon in Monrovia's Palm Grove cemetery.
Although crack troops of the National Guard participated in the coup and quickly formed a civilian-dominated Cabinet, an informed source here said he believed the coup "was a matter of last-minute planning." The same source said that the Redemption Council set up by Sgt. Doe "is willing to take guidance from civilians."
Downtown Monrovia late this afternoon was a bustle of normal activity with only a few patrolling soldiers around the brass-front executive mansion where Tolbert was assassinated and where Doe has his headquarters.
Tension at the airport, however, was high as a small group of short-tempered Liberian privates, corporals and sergeants armed with American-made rifles kept a close eye on incoming passengers. There was only one roadblock along the hour-long drive into Monrovia. Two soldiers took a cursory look at the people passing through.
In a speech to Army officers, Doe described the date of the coup, April 12, as a day when the majority of Liberians gained their independence for the first time. He announced that Independence Day will from now be celebrated on that date instead of July 26, when, in 1847, freed American slaves who had settled here declared the contry an independent republic.
Doe, 28, is the youngest head of state in Africa. He is married and is described as pleasant, intelligent and articulate. In a broadcast, Doe said he had attended school up to grade 12 but was forced to drop out because of lack of money. He then joined the Army. Doe is from the Krahn tribe, one of the smallest indigenous groups within Liberia's 1.6 million population. o
Several sources said that after the coup, people celebrated in the streets of Monrovia.
While people were going about their business in downtown Monrovia today, a number of them stopped to read a white banner on the old Executive Building in downtown Monrovia which read, "Our Eyes are Open: The Time of the People Has Come."