Village chief is 1st to be convicted under Ebola laws in Sierra Leone for keeping infection secret

Health workers lift a newly admitted Ebola patient onto a wheeled stretcher in the Kerry town Ebola treatment centre outside Freetownon Dec 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Health workers lift a newly admitted Ebola patient onto a wheeled stretcher in the Kerry town Ebola treatment centre outside Freetownon Dec 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

FREETOWN (AFP) - A village chief has become the first person in Sierra Leone to be jailed under laws aimed at preventing the spread of the Ebola virus, court officials and lawyers said on Tuesday.

Amadu Kargbo was sentenced to six months' jail by a court in the south-western city of Moyamba for secretly burying the dead and failing to report a sick patient, court official Foday Fofanah told AFP. He was also fined one million leones (S$311) and ordered to spend 21 days in quarantine before going to jail.

Lawyers in the capital Freetown said it was the first known conviction under the country's Ebola laws.

Fofanah said the chief had pleaded guilty to secretly burying his daughter, who had died of Ebola. He added that Kargbo's wife had also died after attending the funeral of another family member, although it was not clear if any of the charges related to his wife's death and burial.

Ebola has killed more than 7,500 people, almost all of them in west Africa and Sierra Leone recently overtook Liberia as the country with the highest number of Ebola infections.

The authorities have banned public gatherings as well as New Year celebrations as part of sweeping efforts to stem the spread of the virus.