By Rohey Jadama
Mr. Dawda Ndure an official of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the first Prosecution witness in the ongoing criminal trial of nine NIA officials has said that Solo Sandeng’s body was buried with a mattress and a bed sheet.
The witness said this while testifying before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara of the Banjul High Court yesterday 8 May 2017.
The witness told the court that they buried Solo Sandeng’s body together with the mattress and the bed sheet. “Tamba Mansaray, Baboucarr Sallah and the boys buried the body. I was standing near the grave and Sheikh Omar Jeng was also there.” He said after the burial Sheikh Omar Jeng told the driver to drop him home.
The accused persons are Yankuba Badjie, the former Director General of the NIA, Louie Richard Leese Gomez, Saikou Omar Jeng, Baboucarr Sallah, Yusupha Jammeh, Haruna Susso, Tamba Mansaray, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Lang Sanyang.
They are charged with twelve counts of criminal offences ranging from conspiracy to murder, Murder, Assault causing actual bodily harm, Conspiracy to commit misdemeanour, Forgery and Making documents without Authority contrary to the laws of The Gambia. However, they all denied culpability of the charges levied against them.
When the case was called, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DDPP) M.B Abubacarr, A. Adeyimi, E.R Dungan and K. Mbaye announced their representation for the state. Lawyers C.E Mene and Baboucarr Secka appeared for the 1st accused, Lawyer Edward Gomez for the 2nd accused, Lawyer Moses Johnson Richards for the 3rd accused, Lawyer S. Kenedy for the 4th, 5th, 7th and the 8th accused persons, Lawyer U Achigwe for the 6th accused and Lawyer Dago for the 9th accused person.
The first prosecution witness (PW1) Dawda Ndure of the counter intelligence (CI) unit told the court that they at the CI normally take background information from suspects. When asked whether he recognized the accused persons, the witness responded in the positive adding that he worked with them.
After acknowledging that he recognized the accused, PW1 said sometime in April, 2016 whilst at work they were asked to stay in order to obtain a background information from some people; and soon after the following came into his office: Sheikh Omar Jeng (3rd accused), Louis Gomez (2nd accused), Solo Sandeng and Nogoi Njie and he was briefed to obtain background information from Solo and Nogoi.
“Solo Sandeng wanted to sit on the chair but Sheikh Omar Jeng asked him to sit on the floor”, said the witness.
He further told the court that Solo Sandeng, Sheikh Omar Jeng together with Louise left the Counter investigation office.
“After that Solo Sandeng was brought in by James and Tamba Mansaray(7th accused) to the Counter investigation Office then my boss Sheikh Gassama ordered me to obtain a background information of Solo Sandeng”, said the witness.
PW1 said during interrogation Mr. Sandeng told him that their protest was not to unseat the government but to hand over a letter that was signed by UDP party militants to the Independent Electoral Commission(IEC).
He continued “I obtained the background information as instructed, he signed the document. After that I asked him whether he would like to pray and he responded in the positive and I took him to the bathroom for him to perform ablution. After that I gave him a mat to pray. Tamba Mansaray and the boys took him out of the office”.
PW1 adduced that thereafter, Nogoi Njie was brought in by James Mendy and her background information was obtained and she signed it. He said after signing, the ‘special operation boys’ and Tamba Mansaray took her away; that they then prepared a report and gave it to Sheriff Gassama. He said he told Mr. Gassama that they need to go home and he said he had already submitted the report to Sheikh Omar Jeng.
“I was left alone in the office and after sitting for a long time alone in the office, I felt bored. I then decided to have a walk at the NIA campus. During that walk I went to the back gate of the campus and wanted to go out of the campus. I passed through the security room at the back gate, then suddenly I saw Solo Sandeng was lying down on the mattress and was covered with a stained bed sheet up to the neck”, said the witness.
He said he stood there for some time and looked at him and became emotional and he left, adding that it was around 3am and that there was light. He said he went back to his office, closed it and then went looking for Sheikh Omar Jeng whom he told that he wanted to go home but that Mr Jeng asked him to wait for the vehicle. He said the vehicle came with Doctor Lamin Lang Sanyang (9th accused) and after a while he went back to check on Sheikh Omar Jeng and he found him gathered with the boys and he was talking on phone.
“When he was done, he told the boys that they have lost one of their detainees and he selected three(3) boys in the patrol team and ordered them to collect spades from the newly constructed NIA building “, said the first prosecution witness.
He said thereafter he told Sheikh Omar Jeng again that he wants to go home and he responded that he should join the vehicle going to Tanji to dig the grave.
He said upon arrival at Tanji at the NIA training school, the driver stopped and one of the boys climbed over the fence, then the vehicle entered into the campus and they alighted from the vehicle.
“I went there to check on what they were doing and I met them digging a grave yard. Then I left them and I went to perform ablution. During that time three (3) pickups entered the campus. Sheikh Omar Jeng was onboard one of the vehicles and he asked me how far with the boys and I told him that they are at the back and I went for prayers. Haruna Suso (6th accused) was in the second vehicle and the dead body was in the other vehicle”, said PW1.
He said after his prayers, he followed Sheikh Omar Jeng and his group. He said the Pickup carrying Solo Sandeng’s body drove up to the grave.
“Tamba Mansaray, Baboucarr Sallah and the boys (I cannot remember their names) were present at the scene. Sheikh Omar Jeng then asked them to remove the body of Solo Sandeng”, said the witness.
When asked by Prosecutor Abubacarr, how he knew that the pickup was carrying Solo sandeng’s body, the witness responded that the light was on.
“The body was on top of the mattress covered with the same bed sheet up to the neck. They buried the body together with the mattress and the bed sheet. Tamba Mansaray, Baboucarr Sallah and the boys buried the body. I was standing near the grave and Sheikh Omar Jeng was also there. After the burial Sheikh Omar Jeng told the driver to drop me home”, said the witness.
At this juncture the witness concluded his evidence in chief. When the defence team was asked whether they have questions for the witness, Lawyer Mene and Edward Gomez defence Attorney’s for the 1st and 2nd accused persons respectively told the court that they have no question for the witness.
However, Lawyer Richard, defence Counsel for the 3rd accused told the court that he had questions for the witness.
While responding to questions from Lawyer Richard during cross cross-examination, the witness told the court that he does not know what time it was on the 14th April, 2016 when he received information that he should stay and obtain background information but it was during closing time.
“What time did the 2nd, 3rd, 7th accused, James Mendy and Solo Sandeng entered the counter intelligence office?” The witness responded that it was in the evening during the closing hours but that he doesn’t know the time.
When asked when these individuals entered his office how many sat down and how many were standing. The witness responded that all of them were standing.
“It is not correct therefore, to say that Sheikh Omar told Solo Sandeng not to sit down”, quizzed Lawyer Richard. The witness responded in the negative.
“I’m putting it to you that that piece of evidence is not true, you lied”, said defence counsel Richard.
The witness responded that Solo Sandeng attempted to sit down but he was told by Sheikh Omar Jeng, to sit on the floor. He further told the court that after he had obtained their background information they were taken away but he doesn’t know where they were taken to because he was in his office. He also told the court that he was cautious to give a statement concerning what he knew about the case but, he was never charged. He told the court that he witnessed the burial but, that he didn’t partake in anything.
The case continues today 9 May, 2017 at 12noon for continuation of cross-examination of PW1.