On March 10, 1980, George Boley was arrested on the street in Monrovia. Boley, in his early thirties, was one of Liberia's promising young men, an outsider who was becoming a provisional member of the ruling establishment. That establishment consisted almost entirely of "Americo-Liberians," the descendants of freed American slaves who settled the country early in the nineteenth century. Boley, however, was one of the "country people," those who did not have roots in America. He had managed to get to the United States for an education, and won a Ph.D. from the University of Akron. With his American wife, he returned to Liberia and soon became an assistant minister of education in the government of President William R. Tolbert, Jr. But Tolbert's agents kept an eye on Boley, and found that, even as he was working for the government, he was associating with its opponents, members of the Progressive People's Party. Joseph Chesson, the minister of justice, charged him with treason and sedition and locked him up, along with some twenty other suspicious characters, in the post stockade at the Barclay Training Centre, a military base on the Atlantic in downtown Monrovia.
For a month Boley did not see his family. He was given twenty-five lashes every morning. He had no bath the entire time, and he slept on the bare cement floor of the cell, which he shared with several others. Eating only one scant meal a day, he lost fifty pounds and became very weak. Then came the rumor that on April 14, the first anniversary of nationwide riots to protest an increase in the price of rice, he and the other political prisoners would be executed.