On this day gone by: Five journalists and sixteen other civilians are sentenced to death by hanging in Freetown, for “collaborating” with Sierra Leone’s ousted military regime.

That came to pass 24 years ago today August 25, 1998.

A 12-member jury found all 21 persons guilty of helping the country’s former military junta, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) take power in an armed coup d’etat on May 25, 1997.

Handing down the sentence, presiding judge, Justice Edmund Cowan, informed the defendants they had 21 days to appeal. He told each of the condemned prisoners: “You will be taken from here to a place of maximum security to be hanged by the neck until you die. May your soul rest in peace”.

The convicted journalists were [then] British Broadcasting Corporation African Service presenter, Hilton Ebenezer Fyle, head of Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service, Gipu Felix George, New Citizen (Tolongbo) newspaper editor, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, and SLBC radio journalists Dennis Smith and Olivia Mensah.

The restoration of civilian government in the country witnessed a series of public mob actions, against former military officers and their civilian “collaborators”. At least a dozen people were burned alive by angry mobs, before the authorities got the crude form of justice under control. Member of Parliament, Victor Bockarie Foh, former Governor of the Bank of Sierra Lone, Christian Kargbo and AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara, were prominent amongst the other 16 condemned to death by hanging on this day gone by with me Claudia, Claudia Anthony.