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Sierra Leone releases Liberian opposition figure

By AFP - Jan 16,2020 - Last updated at Jan 16,2020

FREETOWN — Sierra Leone on Thursday said it had released a leading opponent of Liberian President George Weah after he had been briefly detained at Liberia's request.

Opposition figure Henry Costa left Sierra Leone for the United States, where he usually resides, an immigration official in Sierra Leone and Liberian media said. 

Sierra Leone authorities had stopped him from leaving the country on Tuesday, local media reported, in an affair allegedly related to problems with his travel documents. 

Costa, chairman of a youth activist group called the Council of Patriots (COP), is a fierce critic of footballer-turned-politician Weah and often attacks him on his popular radio show.

Sierra Leone Information Minister Abdurahman Swarray told local radio on Thursday that Costa had been detained and released.

"There was a call from our counterparts in Liberia to investigate him and we did the due diligence," Swarray said.

Costa had returned to his native Liberia from the United States last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6. 

He was prevented from boarding a flight in Liberia last week for allegedly possessing forged travel documents, media in Liberia said earlier.

He was supposed to present himself to Liberian authorities on Wednesday but instead turned up in Freetown, capital of neighbouring Sierra Leone, where he was detained at the airport.

COP co-chair Mo Alie confirmed that Costa had been released and was on his way to the United States.

Liberia's government did not comment on Costa's detention on Wednesday, and it was not immediately available for comment on Thursday. 

The president is under growing pressure to revive the west African country's economy, which is struggling after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.

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