By Rohey Jadama
Lawyers representing Mr. Ebrima Jawara, the Permanent Secretary and four other staff of the Rural Finance Project under the ministry of Agriculture standing trial at the High Court in Banjul yesterday 22nd September urged the court to exercise its discretion judicially and judiciously and grant bail to the accused persons.
The other defendants include Dr. Alasan Bah, , Sulayman Manneh, Lamin Fatajo and Momodou Lamin Mass.
Moving the bail application before justice Muhammed Dan Azumi Balarabe, Ida Drammeh counsel for Mr. Jawara told the court that she was served in court with the affidavit of opposition. She said they have an application of bail before the court deposed to by the applicant’s wife. She said their application for bail is pursuant to sections 19 of the constitution and 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code which all support the applicant’s rights to bail and freedom of liberty.
Barrister Drameh cited the case of Momodou Sabally vs the the state, Adamu Sulayman and others to support her application. Counsel Drammeh further referred the court to section 24 subsections (3) of the 1997 constitution. She submitted that the application for bail is properly made and in no circumstance should the accused be denied bail. Lawyer Drameh further told the court that the applicant is still denied access to his family and lawyer.
“In granting bail to the applicant, my lord should take into account section 99 of the CPC not to make the conditions so excessive and onerous to deprive the accused person in fulfilling them. My lord should also take into account the alleged amount in the charge sheet”, she submitted.
Replying to the application, State Counsel A.M Yusuf told the court that they have filed an affidavit in opposition. Counsel Yusuf told the court that the application of lawyer Drameh is argumentative and speculative. He submitted that the applicant was the Permanent Secretary and as such is a highly placed person in the country and will interfere with further investigations. He told the court that bail is at the discretion of the court and finally referred the court to the case of Lang Dibba and others vs the state.
At this juncture the presiding judge adjourned the matter till Tuesday 29th September at 9am for ruling on the bail application.
For her part, Hawa Sisay Sabally attorney for Dr. Alassan Bah, told the court they have filed an application for her client to be admitted to bail. She referred the court to sections 19(5), 24, 37 of the constitution, section 8 of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act and section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
“My lord we are relying on all the paragraphs of the affidavit in support of the application particularly, paragraphs 8-23. We also filed an additional affidavit and exhibited a medical report signed by a medical Doctor at Sheikh Zahid Medical Centre. We have been served with a counter affidavit sworn to by one Awa Dibba and we have also filed an affidavit of reply to that effect,” she submitted.
Barrister Sisay Sabally submitted that her client had undergone surgery at the time of his arrest and is in serious medical condition. She said there is absolutely no justification of the continued detention of her client. She said in the affidavit of opposition, the respondent did not mention that her client is a flight risk, all that they said was he will interfere with the investigations.
Lawyer Sisay Sabally said her client is held incommunicado at the Maximum Security wing of Mile Two central prison without access to his family, fresh clothes and lawyer . “My lord he has been wearing the same shirt and trousers he wore since at the time of his arrest which is unconstitutional. We have brought evidence from a doctor from whom he underwent treatment of cataract in his left eye. My lord he continues to experience pain in his left eyes”, asserted lawyer Sisay Sabally.
She referred the court to the cases of Mambury Njie Vs IGP and Musu Kebba Corr to support her application. She finally urged the court to release her client on bail because there is no indictment yet before the court and he has to undergo treatment because his condition is serious and if he continues to be remanded he may be blind.
A.M Yusuf told the court that cataract is not a serious medical condition, however lawyer Sisay Sabally objected to his submission on the grounds that Counsel Yusuf cannot give evidence from the bar. “MY lord he can get a doctor to counter that but not him, particularly when they did not opposed my client’s health condition in the affidavit of opposition.
Counsel Yusuf told the court that pursuant to section 4 of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act, charges may be amended. Replying to that submission, lawyer Sisay Sabally said that is against the practice Direction of 2013 and that section 4 of the Economic Crime Act is unconstitutional. She referred the court to sections 4 and 5 of the 1997 constitution which states that any law that is in conflict with the constitution is null and void.
The matter was adjourned till 29th of September, 2015at 10am for ruling on the bail application.
Edward Singhatey counsel for Lamin Fatajo and Momodou Lamin Mass also urged the court to grant bail to his clients. He referred the court to section 24 of the constitution, section 99 of the CPC and section 8 of the Economic Crime Act . He told the court that they have filed an affidavit which contains 28 paragraphs and have also filed an additional affidavit which has 7 paragraphs and they were also served with an affidavit of opposition.
Counsel Singhatey submitted that they wish to rely on all the paragraphs, particularly paragraph 4. He told the court that Fatajo and Mass are fathers of many children and since their arrest and detention they have no access to family members and their lawyer. He submitted that they will not interfere with investigations and that they have no criminal record. He said the applicants are standing trial in the high court on similar offences and were granted bail in the sum of D3 million and they did not abscond.
Replying to the application A.M Yusuf told the court that the applicants are standing trial on a different matter. He said considering the amount of 8 million, the accused persons are more likely to abscond if granted bail and that investigation is still ongoing.
The case was adjourned till 30th of September for ruling on the application for bail.
Segga Gaye counsel for Sulayman Manneh also told the court that they have filled an affidavit containing 26 paragraphs deposed to by the applicant. Lawyer Gaye told the court that they have also filed a supporting affidavit consisting of 13 paragraphs deposed to by the applicant’s first wife. He said he has been served in court with an affidavit of opposition filed by the state.
“The applicant has deposed sufficient and cogent reasons for the court to exercise it’s discretion in favour of granting bail to him and paragraph 10 states that the applicant will make himself available for trial if granted bail. The applicant has been under police bail for 1 year before his arraignment in this matter and he has been reporting on bail,” he submitted.
Lawyer Gaye drew the court’s attention to the health condition of the applicant, he said they have exhibited various medical reports relating to the applicant’s health . He said exhibit MM1 is a medical report from Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital that the applicant has been diagnosed of a cronic Liver disease , MM2 is a medical report stating that the applicant has a heart disease and MM3 is the report issued to the applicant in Dakar translated into English.
Lawyer Gaye Further told the court that he is relying on the submission of Lawyer Sisay Sabally in the cases of Mambury Njie Vs IGP and Musu Kebba Corr.
At this juncture the matter was adjourned till 30th of September, 2015 for ruling on the bail application.
Readers would recall that Prosecutors earlier presented at the lower court in Banjul a ten count indictment against the aforesaid persons ranging from Stealing by Person in Public Service, Abuse of office, stealing by clerk or servants, theft to four counts of Economic Crime, charges they deny.