By Yankuba Jallow
In the criminal trial involving Ebrima Jawara, Dr Alasan Bah, Sulayman Manneh and Hassan Jallow that was heard before Hon Justice Zainab Jawara Alami at the Banjul High Court Complex on 29 June 2017, the court has revoked the bail granted to Hassan Jallow, 4th accused person and Deputy Permanent Secretary at the same time with the Ministry of Agriculture, due to his continued absence from court.
The accused persons are facing 32 charges including 13 counts of economic crime, 5 counts of abuse of office, 6 counts of neglect of official duty, 3 counts of stealing and 1 count of disobedience of statutory duty.
The State was represented by L Jarjue, whilst Mr Jawara, Dr Bah and Mr Manneh, were represented by M Drameh, H Sisay Sabally and S Gaye respectively. Accused persons Jawara, Bah and Manneh were all present in court. However Hassan Jallow and his counsel were not.
Readers could recall that Ebrima Jawara served as Permanent Secretary at both the Office of the President and the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Alasan Bah is an ex Project Coordinator of the Rural Finance Project, Sulayman Manneh is an ex Accountant of the Rural Finance Project and Hassan Jallow is currently a Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture.
State Counsel Jarjue informed the court that the first prosecution witness Yerro Saidy, was in court and that the State was ready to proceed.
L Jarjue submitted that the accused persons, face felony charges, and therefore the case could not proceed in the absence of the 4th accused. He went on to add that both Mr Jallow and his counsel had not appeared in the case since December 2016, and he was not aware of any letter explaining the reason for the absence of the 4th accused. Mr Jarju subsequently applied for the revocation of Hassan Jallow’s bail, and that he be arrested and remanded at Mile 2 prisons. Mr Jarju further stated that records would show that this was not the first time he was making such an application with respect to Mr Jallow; that records would show that a similar application was made when Justice Dada presided over the case.
M Drammeh, counsel for Ebrima Jawara made an application for the case to be struck out for lack of diligent prosecution and for the accused persons to be acquitted and discharged. Counsel Drameh informed the court that the case had been adjourned many times at the request of the State, and also that at the last adjourned date, the State wrote to the Court seeking an adjournment to enable them complete their review of the case.
Counsel Drameh informed the court that the State has not informed the court of the outcome of their review, and were merely engaged in delaying tactics. He further informed the court that not once in all the proceedings in 2017, did the State make any effort to have the 4th accused person, present in court.
Counsel Drameh reminded the court that at the last adjourned date, the presiding judge ruled that should the case not proceed due to the State, the court would be guided by the application made by the defence counsel. He was therefore making an application to have the case struck off for lack of diligent prosecution.
Hawa Sisay Sabally and S Gaye both associated themselves with Counsel Drameh’s application.
State Counsel Jarju in response, informed the Court that the adjournments were at the instance of the defence and not the State. Jarjue went further to add that the defence counsels were deliberately delaying the case.
Hawa Sisay Sabally took exception to L Jarjue’s allegation and informed the court that she had the facts of the proceedings of the case handy. She disclosed that on 23 May 2016, when the case was first heard, the State sought an adjournment on the grounds that the DPP was too tired to proceed with the case.
On 24 May 2016, the State sought an adjournment because the prosecution witness (PW1) claimed that he was not in the right state of mind to testify.
On 26 May 2016, the case did not proceed because PW1 was absent. The DPP told the court that he had mistakenly told PW1 to come at 3.30pm, when the case was actually scheduled for 2.30pm, sje added.
She said on 5th July 2016, counsel for the 1st accused wrote to the court seeking an adjournment as he was out of the jurisdiction of the court.
She remarked, “On 11 July 2016, PW1 was absent. The DPP told the court that he forgot to remind PW1 that the case was coming up that morning”.
She added, “On 12 October 2016, the case was adjourned because the DPP was absent.
On 14 November 2016, the case did not proceed, due to the absence of the 4th Accused who was out of the country on an official mission on behalf of the State.
On 7 December 2016, the case did not proceed due to the absence of both the State and PW1.
On 8 May 2017, the State, PW1 and 4th accused were absent.
On 15th May 2017 the case was adjourned at the request of the State. Both PW1 and 4th accused were absent.
On 22nd May 2017 the State wrote to the court seeking an adjournment as they were still reviewing the case”.
In summary, Hawa Sisay Sabally informed the court that the case had been adjourned nine times by the State and only twice by the Defence.
After hearing all arguments, Hon Justice Jawara Alami ruled that the absence of the 4th accused from court on numerous occasions, was a sign of his disregard for the court, and therefore ordered that his bail be revoked. The trial judge further ordered that Hassan Jallow should be arrested and remanded at Mile 2 Prisons.
On the application by Counsel Drameh for the case to be dismissed, Justice Jawara Alami stated that she had taken note of the State’s lack of interest in prosecuting the case. However, they were present in court and had their witness ready to testify, and were it not for the absence of the 4th accused person, the case would have proceeded. The judge denied Mr Drameh’s application to dismiss the case. However, she stated that the court would monitor the proceedings and take necessary action if it fails to proceed as had obtained in the past.
The case was adjourned to 3, 7 and 8 August 2017, for continuation of hearing.