By Kebba Secka
The panel of the General Court-Martial in the in case involving 12 soldiers charged with treason, mutiny and 7 other offences have on Friday the 24th May convicted 8 of the accused persons.
The court also discharged the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th accused persons on all the charges against them. Upon the court-martial delivering judgment, the discharged soldiers went into tears and their loved ones were also seen crying.
The convicted soldiers were; Captain Yahya B. Jammeh, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju, Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, Sergeant Baboucarr Sanneh, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Private Mbemba Camara and Private Alieu Sanneh.
The soldiers who were discharged were Corporal Sulayman Sanyang, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Ebrima Jallow and Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang.
The 12 soldiers were facing prosecution on 9 counts namely; Treason, incitement to mutiny, failure to report mutiny, conspiracy to commit mutiny, endeavouring to persuade members of the Armed Forces to take part in mutiny, negligent or willful interference with lawful custody, connivance of desertion, connivance of desertion and negligent interference with lawful custody.
When the case was called before the panel of the court-martial, Lawyer MB Abubacar appeared with Lieutenant B. Sanneh for the State while Lawyer Sheriff Kumba Jobe represented the accused persons along with Lieutenant Commander Alieu Sanneh, Lieutenant Navy William Demba, Captain Cham Samateh, Captain Modou Demba and Captain Kebba Jabbi.
While reading out the judgment, Colonel Salifu Bojang, the President of the court-martial said the trial was initiated under the Gambia Armed Forces Act (GAF Act) and its subsidiary legislation.
“The court does not consider the statements of the accused persons as a confession,” he held, adding that they relied on section 122 of the GAF Act relating to arrest, keeping in custody, investigation of charges, trial and punishment by a court-martial among other things.
On count 1, which was a treason charge, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 11th and 12th accused persons were found guilty on the charge. The court-martial held that the 2nd and 3rd accused persons accepted holding a meeting at the residence of the 1st accused person at the AU Villa in Brufut where they discussed demonstration of how to arrest the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), battalion commanders and cabinet ministers.
The 6th accused person, Corporal Sulayman Sanyang was not found liable on this charge because the court held that the evidence adduced was not corroborated. The 7th accused person, Corporal Lamin Gibba was not found guilty of the charge although he accepted being a member of the ‘WhatsApp’ group. The court found that Corporal Gibba withdrew from the ‘WhatsApp’ group after seeing a message that the members of the group were planning to attack the ECOMIG Force in Foni.
On count 2, which is ‘incitement to mutiny’, the 1st, 4th, 5th 10th, 11th and 12th accused persons were all found guilty of the offence as charged. The court held that there was no sufficient evidence adduced to prove the guilt of the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th accused persons on this count. The 6th accused person, Sulayman Sanyang was not found liable although his number was added into the ‘WhatsApp’ group but he has never participated in the group activities. Corporal Lamin Gibba was also not found liable although he was added into the group and he left after seeing the messages about the attack on the ECOMIG Forces in Foni.
On count 3, the charge was failure to report mutiny, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th and 12th accused persons were all found guilty. The 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th were not found guilty of the offence as charged due to lack of sufficient evidence to prove their guilt of the charge.
On count 4, the charge was conspiracy to commit mutiny the accused persons found guilty were: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th and 12th. The 6th and 7th accused persons were not found guilty of the offence charged on this count.
On count 5, which was a charge of persuading members of GAF to take part in mutiny, the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 11th and 12th accused persons were all not found guilty whereas the 1st, 2nd 3rd and 10th accused persons were found guilty of this charge.
On the sixth count, the charge was Negligent or willful interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 (c) of the GAF Act, the court found the 8th and 9th accused persons not guilty of the offence as charged. The court-martial vested the blame on the authorities of the Fajara Barracks for the escape of Sergeant Yusupha Jatta, the creator of the ‘WhatsApp’ group from lawful custody. The court-martial said the army sergeant escaped as a result of administrative failure because the 8th and 9th accused persons are his juniors and as a matter of services, they were not supposed to be his guard because he should have been guarded by an officer of his rank and not his junior ranks.
“It was a failure at the command of the Fajara Barracks. There was no Board of Inquiry that was set up to investigate the circumstances leading to (Sergeant) Yusupha Jatta’s escape,” the President said, adding that the blame for his escape should rest on the command of Fajara Barracks at that time.
On count 7, the charge was Connivance of desertion contrary to section 54 (a) of the GAF Act, the 8th and 9th accused persons were not found culpable of the charge. The same reasons were given like that of the sixth count. The court-martial held that there was no report issued about the escape of Sergeant Jatta by the command of the Fajara Barracks and this was manifested when the Court-Martial requested for the report to be produced which the authorities failed to do.
On count 8, the charge was Connivance of desertion contrary to section 54 (a) of the GAF Act, Corporal Lamin Bojang was not found guilty of the offence as charged due to insufficient evidence to prove otherwise.
Count 9, this charge was about negligent interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 of the GAF Act. Lance Corporal Sambujang Bojang was not found guilty of the offence as charge. He was alleged to have been providing food to detained Sergeant Yusupha Jatta but for the court-martial in their holding blamed the authorities for weakness in administration, adding that the detainees’ food should not come from outside, instead should be provided within the Barracks.
After the judgment, the prosecuting officer, Counsel MB Abubacarr urged the court to convict the accused persons according to the charges they were found liable of. Defence Lawyer, SK Jobe in his plea of mitigation beseeched the court to tamper justice with mercy adding that the accused persons are first time offenders.
The case was adjourned to Monday the 27th May 2018 at 12:30 pm for sentencing.