By Yankuba Jallow
The fifth prosecution witness (PW5), Benard Jatta has denied defence counsel’s claim that Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh and Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju were tortured in the cause of obtaining their cautionary statements.
PW5 denied the claim under cross-examination at the Court-Martial on Friday by defence counsel Lawyer Jobe. When Lawyer Jobe asked him for his reason for denying the torture, reminding him of his statement that at the time the witness statements were taken he (the witness) was absent, the witness responded that what he was telling the Court was what he witnessed.
This trial involves 12 soldiers facing 9 charges including treason.
The court-martial instituted a trial within a trial when the defence objected to the admission of the cautionary statements of two of the accused persons. This trial within a trial, which commenced in the last proceedings will determine whether or not the cautionary statements of the second and third accused persons were obtained voluntarily.
During Friday’s proceedings, PW5 in giving evidence said he was called by the fourth prosecution witness, Captain Alhajie Camara, to the NIA headquarters where the cautionary statements of the 2nd and 3rd accused persons were shown to him. He said thereafter, the two accused persons (2nd and 3rd) were shown their cautionary statements and they (2nd and 3rd accused persons) identified the statements as theirs. He added that he and the accused persons all signed the cautionary statements.
Continuing his evidence-in-chief PW5 told the Court that after the signatures were done, the joint board of investigators told Captain Camara to prepare a fresh cautionary statement in the presence of an independent witness, but the accused asked Captain Camara to write their statements for them while maintaining the original statements of the initial cautionary statements.
Lawyer Sheriff Kumba Jobe reminded the witness that he (the witness) told the Court-Martial that he signed the cautionary statements on the same date which he (Lawyer Jobe) said is not true because the dates on the cautionary statements of the two accused persons were 21st July and 26th July 2017 respectively.
In his response, the witness said “I previously told this Court that I didn’t witness the obtaining of the original copy of the cautionary Statements, may be during the reproduction that the dates were changed”.
Responding to Lawyer Jobe’s question on how many cautionary statements he signed as an independent witness, that he signed five cautionary statements on his one day visit to the NIA Headquarters.
The witness could not tell the Court the time he signed the cautionary statements of the accused persons at the NIA Headquarters, adding that the time he left for home on that day was around 9pm. The case was adjourned till 18th December 2017 for the continuation of trial within a trial.
In the start of the case, State Counsel Yusuf raised concern that Bernard Jatta’s (PW5’s) testimony was interrupted by the second accused person, Lieutenant Yaya Jammeh who has threatened the witness using body sign language during Tuesday’s trial. The Court- warned the second accused person to refrain from such.