By Kebba Jeffang
Magistrate Nche Blessed of Kanifing Magistrates’ Court acquitted and discharged Sheikh Cham who was brought to court by the Drug Law Enforcement Agency the Gambia (DLEA-G) for alleged obstruction.
He acquitted him on the basis that the prosecution failed to convince her on relevant issues of the charge.
This judgment delivered in a packed room on Thursday, 19th May, 2016 ends the ten months trial of Mr. Cham.
In the trial, DLEA-G was represented by prosecutor Jawla and Counsel Modou Drammeh appeared for the accused person.
The trial magistrate recalled that the accused person was arraigned on the 8th June, 2015 and charged with obstruction.
She said the charge against him states that the accused person on or about 19th day of March, 2015 obstructed narcotics officers while they were on the execution of their duties in Lamin village.
She said in proving their case, the prosecution has called five witnesses, including NCA3 Abdoulie Kebbeh, the station officer of Wellingara.
The trial magistrate said “PW1 Kebbeh said he recognised the accused person in the dock and could recall what happened between them on the 19th March, 2015. He said on that day around 22hrs (10pm), he led a team of narcotic officers in the vicinity of Lamin village. He said they reached a ghetto called ‘Obama’ and they saw two boys that suited their information. They were approached and they introduced themselves as narcotic officers. He said one of them complied to be searched but the accused person refused to be searched after being shown a search warrant. The Court said officer testified, “He perambulated excessively using abusive words on us and a necessary force was used to arrest him. He was therefore arrested and brought to Wellingara DLEA office. He was questioned about his resistance of search and his conduct but he declined to say anything”. PW1 Kebbeh further told the court that the cautionary statement of the accused was taken voluntarily and was later charged with obstruction.
She said in the testimonies of all the witnesses of the prosecution, they maintained that the accused person resisted being searched and that he shouted to alert the neighborhood which leads to the failure of the mission as they lose their target.
“After the testimonies from all the five witnesses of the prosecution who are all staff of DLEA-G, the prosecution closed their case. The defence counsel therefore went on to file a no case to answer submission but this was overruled,” said the court.
She said in that course to prove his innocence, the accused person testified followed by the other two defence witnesses before they close their case for address.
In his evidence in chief, court said Sheikh Cham told the court that he was at his home when he got a visitor. She said the accused said he was accompanying his visitor and they saw a speeding vehicle coming towards their direction which eventually stopped after reaching them. She said the accused said he was forced to be searched without being shown the warrant card and that is why he refused to be searched but later surrender and was searched and nothing was found on him. The accused also denied that he shouted to alert the neighborhood.
“Ismaila Jadama, DW3 told the court that he could vividly remember what happened on the day the accused was arrested on 19th of March 2015 at about 10pm, while he was sitting at their compound gate. He said he saw a vehicle coming from the opposite gate and which was on full light. But when it got to the middle of the junction it put off its light. Mr. Jadama said from where he was sitting, he was able to see a vehicle coming towards him with four people inside it and that these were “Sheikh Cham, Dodou, Waggeh and Sarr. He said when he enquired about these people from one man called Kebba, he was told that they were police officers. He said after they left with him (Sheikh), himself, the said Kebba and Mr. Cham’s mother proceeded to the Banjulunding police station but when they arrived and enquired about him, they were told that he was not there. He said on their way back they dropped Kebba who was not feeling well. He said they eventually traced Sheikh to Wellingara police station,” said the trial magistrate.
On whether the accused actually obstructed, prosecution has to lay down evidences that he resisted and shouted because the prosecution told the court that they lose their targets due to his shout. Prosecution failed to challenge the accused person’s evidence that he was later searched and this is in contradiction of obstruction allegation. She said this shows that there was no refusal.
She said the accused person alleged that he was tortured and this was not challenged by the prosecution in order to convince this court in the absence of a statement. She said the prosecution failed to tender such documents in court that challenge that the accused persons was not actually tortured.
“Due to none tendering of the cautionary statement, court cannot prove against the evidence of torture or meeting the DLEA-G Commissioner. How can the accused person be taken to the cell healthy and come out with swollen face without being tortured? The prosecution did not file anything until the article was published in Foroyaa newspaper and his meeting with the Commissioner. Prosecution could not also lay any evidence to prove that the neighborhood was alerted or how they lose their targets. DW3 told the court that he was not at the scene but was not far and he could not hear shout. It is very doubtful to the court as to how somebody will be put in a cell with a good health and come out with swollen face. How can somebody who is on foot be a suspect of carrying such heavy suspected cannabis?” she asked.
“And there is no evidence being laid by the prosecution in this court that the witness has shouted and alerted the neighborhood. I therefore rule in favour of the accused person. The accused person is hereby acquitted and discharged.