By Rohey Jadama
The Banjul High Court presided over by Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara has yesterday 2nd May, 2017 overruled the application of the defence team in the trial of nine Officials of the former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on the basis that it lacks merit.
The accused persons are: Yankuba Badjie, Louis Gomez, former Deputy Director, Saikou Omar Jeng, former director of Operations, Haruna Susso, Yusupha Jammeh, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Baboucarr Sallah, and Lamin Lang Sanyang, all operatives of the intelligence outfit.
The defence attorneys want the court to strike out the charges filed on the 20th day of March, 2017 for want of jurisdiction on the grounds that the criminal case was not instituted in accordance with the due process of the law and the Constitution.
When the case was called the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DDPP) M.B. Abubacarr, E.R. Dungan, and K. Mbaye announced their representation for the state. Lawyer C.E. Mene appeared for the 1st accused, Lawyers Edward Gomez and Patrick Gomez for the 2nd accused, Lawyer M.B Johnson Richard for the 3rd accused, Lawyer S. Kenedy for the 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th accused persons, Lawyer U. Achebeh for the 6th accused and Lawyer Dago for the 9th accused
In her ruling, the trial judge, said the defence counsels submitted that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is distinct from the office of the Attorney General. That the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions is not competent to initiate criminal proceedings.
She said the Prosecution replied that although section 84 of the Constitution creates the office of the DPP, it does not mean that it is a distinct and separate from the office of the Attorney General.
The prosecution further argued that the office of the DPP is a constitutional creation that defines and delegates duties which make the office a public authority that exists, therefore, whether the office of the DPP is occupied or not, the office continues to function.
Justice Sillah-Camara, said Section 85(3) states that the powers conferred on the Director of Public Prosecutions under this section may be exercised by him or her in person or by persons under his or her direction and control.
She added that prosecutor Abubacarr was acting legal as he was acting under the direction and control of the DPP.
On the Prosecution’s position to stay off proceedings and refer the matter to the Supreme Court for sections 84 and 85 to be interpreted, the trial judge said she agrees with the defence team that the said sections are not ambiguous.
On the defence counsel’s argument that there is no incumbent DPP, the presiding judge said the defence has not presented any evidence to prove that allegation.
The trial judge, said in light of the above, she is refusing the application of the defence team to strike out the case and discharge the accused persons because, their application lacks merit.
At this juncture, the charges were read to all the accused persons. However, they pleaded not guilty to all the twelve charges, ranging from Conspiracy to commit murder, Assault causing bodily harm and conspiracy to commit misdemeanour respectively.
Lawyer Mene informed the court that the accused persons are being handcuff when they are being escorted to court. He argued that the accused persons’ right to dignity must be respected. “They must be presumed innocent until proven guilty”, he said.
Responding to the defence counsel, prosecutor Abubacarr, said they are not aware that the rights of the accused persons are violated. He was however, quick to add that they do not support the said action.
At this juncture, Justice Sillah-Camara asked the prison officer as to why they handcuff the accused persons. The prison officer responded that ‘for security reasons’.
“I disagree with the prison officer because more than 50 officers escort the accused persons to court”, said Lawyer Richards.
Justice Sillah-Camara, consequently, ordered the officers not to handcuff the accused persons unless if they are a flight risk.
The case continues on the 8 May, 2017 at 12noon for the prosecution to produce their witnesses.