By Yankuba Jallow / Nelson Manneh
Lawyers from the defence team and the Lead Counsel for the prosecution, Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye, Tuesday May 29th 2018, battled over the sitting arraignment of the accused persons in the ongoing criminal trial of former NIA Officers.
When the case was called before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara, Lawyers CE Mene and EE Chime announced their presence for the 1st, P. Gomez for the 2nd and held brief for Uzoma A. for the 6th, I. Jallow for the 3rd, Charles Sarr from the Legal Aid appeared for the 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th and D. Dago for the 9th accused persons.
In his submission, Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye representing the State, indicated that the accused persons were not sitting in the order as provided in the indictment or charge sheet and referred to this as improper; that since the commencement of the trial, the accused persons always sit in accordance with the numbering on the charge sheet.
In his counter argument, Lawyer Christopher E. Mene said the argument raised by the prosecution is baseless and has no legal support. In his own words, Counsel Mene stated that he learnt the witnesses do not know the accused persons but always take advantage of their sitting arrangement; that from the charge sheet and the usual sitting arrangement of the accused persons, it is very easy to identify an accused person. He urged the Court to disregard the submissions of prosecutor Gaye, whose submission he referred to as baseless as far as English Law is concern.
Ibrahim Jallow, Counsel for the third accused person, associated himself to the submission of Counsel Mene and added that the charge sheet has absolutely nothing to do with the witnesses identifying the accused persons, provided they know them. He argued that there is no rule of law that stated that the accused persons must sit in accordance with the charge sheet. He also urged that the Court should disregard the prosecution’s submissions.
At this juncture, Ousainou ANM Darboe (Lawyer Darboe), the Party Leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who doubles as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, walked into the Court room attracting the attention of the audience whilst the trial judge was busy writing her ruling. He walked to the prosecution and sat with them discussing whilst the trial was ongoing. This drew the attention of the people in the Courtroom, creating some murmuring that could be heard everywhere in the Courtroom.
In her ruling, the trial Judge Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara, overruled the Defence Lawyers’ objection that the sittings of the accused persons should be made in accordance with the charge sheet. She stated that the sitting arrangement of the accused persons has nothing to do with their identification by witnesses; that if such arrangement are to be made, it should be communicated to the Court.
Kafu Bayo, the seventeenth prosecution witness (PW17) continued giving evidence before the Court. Bayo said that upon their arrival at the NIA headquarters, they were arraigned and their photos were taken.
“We were then taken into a room where we were searched and our monies were taken from us. They took over a thousand dalasi from me including my mobile phone. We were asked the motive of our demonstration and we told them that we want to free (liberate) our country. We weren’t asked any further questions afterwards,” he said.
He said their statements were written down and whilst they were in the room, they heard Nogoi Njie and Solo Sandeng crying and saying: ‘You are going to kill me’.
He said Ebrima Jabang, Modou Ngom and himself were taken to another room which he later referred to as a cell.
“Solo was brought in the room (cell) that we were put in and he was bleeding with blood coming from his body. We thought of giving him water because we thought he was going to die, but we couldn’t get the water. Nogoi Njie was also brought and her body was swollen because of the beatings,” Bayo said.
He said he can bear witness that at that time the late Solo Sandeng and Nogoi were brought into the cell, they weren’t able to respond to them and thereafter, he heard a knock at the door calling his name, “Kafu Bayo”. The witness said he stood up and answered to the call.
The case was adjourned to today, May 30th 2018 at 12 noon, for continuation of hearing.