By Sarjo Camara- Singateh
The defence witness in the obstruction trial of Sheikh Cham told the court that the accused emerged from a police cell with a swollen face.
Testifying before Magistrate Nche Blessed of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on 31 March, 2016, Mr. Ismalia Jadama said Mr. Cham was forced to thumb print a statement that was written for him, adding that he was also kept in solitary confinement in a cell.
He 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. “I 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,” said the defence witness.
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 that 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.
He further told the court that when he entered the police station, he saw Dodou and Waggeh inside. He said he asked about Mr. Cham and was told that he was in the cell.
The defence witness said they were to collect Mr. Cham. “When he came out from the cell, I saw his left eyes swollen. He could not even open his eyes properly,” said the witness.
He told the court that Mr. Cham went back to the charge office where he was asked to sign a document but he told them that before signing it he has to read the contents.
He said Kebbeh returned him (Sheikh Cham) back into the cell.
The witness further told the court that on the following day, Friday, he went to the Welingara police station at about 12 noon. He said they went to Kebbeh who told them to allow me to go and collect Sheikh (the accused).
“We did not know Assan. We met him at the Wellingara police station. We have no relation with him. He is an independent man who may have known the police officers,” he said.
He further told the court that they left Mr. Cham to read and sign the statement and that they forced him and put his thumb in the ink pad.
The witness said as they were leaving with the accused person, he asked the police about his belt and money but that they told him that they neither saw the belt nor the money.
“After when I left Sheikh and the police officers, what they discussed I wouldn’t know. When he (the accused) entered the vehicle, he told me that he did not know what he has done wrong,” he said.
Mr. Jadama also said that he asked Mr. Cham whether he realized how they were forcing him to sign with his finger print.
CROSS- EXAMINATION BY THE PROSECUTION
During the cross examination of Mr. Jadama, the defence witness, by Mr. Jawara of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), he maintained that he saw Mr. Cham at the Wellingara police station with a swollen face and that he could not see properly with his eyes.
He told the court that according to the information from the police officer, Mr. Cham was sent to a one man cell
He told the court that all what he was telling the court is correct, reliable and relevant.
“What is your relationship with Sheikh Cham?” asked the prosecution. “My neighbor,” he responded.
“When do you know him?” “I cannot remember.”
“Do you want to see Sheikh Cham going to jail?” “No.”
“Based on your explanation, you were not present during the arrest. Since you were not present, you cannot know what transpired?” “Yes, but I did not hear any noise.”
“Apart from your name and surname, all your information before this court is wrong?” “What I saw that is what I said before the court.”
“I put it to you that you were fed by the accused person Sheikh Cham?” Je answered, “No.”
“Do you know the charges preferred against the accused person?” He answered, “No.”
At this stage, the defence counsel stood up and objected to the question. He told the court that the witness would not know that because he is not a lawyer. “He is a lay man in law,” added the defence lawyer.
The trial magistrate in his ruling said it is left to the witness to say what he wants to say.
The witness told the court that what he knows is what he has said.
The prosecutor put it to the witness that the accused has obstructed narcotic officers while performing their work and insulted them. The witness said he did not know Mr. Cham with such behaviour.
The NDLEA prosecutor told the witness that it was because of the behaviour of the accused that the officers could not perform their duty.
“I was seated about 40 to 45 metres away and that whatever that happened there I will hear,” said the witness.
The prosecutor remarked, “I put it to you that you were never present or seated where you said you were?” He answered, “I was there.”
The prosecutor added, “I put it to you that the accused person resisted arrest, search and was using foul words, describing the officers as dropouts.” He answered, “I am not aware of that.”
The prosecutor remarked, “I put it to you that the accused person was never tortured or beaten?” He answered, “His swollen face showed that he was beaten.”
The prosecutor added, “Do you know that telling lies before this honourable court can lead you to prison?” He answered, “I said what I saw.”
At this stage, the trial magistrate intervened and put it to the witness that that is not the answer.
The witness then replied in the affirmative.
The prosecutor put it to the witness that he was not giving truthful evidence. “You are lying to this honorable court?” said the prosecutor.
“What I said before the court is true,” responded Mr. Jadama.
“You said you saw officers forcing the accused to thump print?” The witness answered, “Yes, I saw it. Yes, its true.”
Prosecutor asked, “At what time did that happen?” The witness answered, “I can’t remember the time.”
Prosecutor remarked, “I put it to you that the accused signed the statement without any force.” He answered, “What I saw is what I said.”
Prosecutor asked, “I put it to you that Sheikh was never put in a one man cell?” He answered, “Yes, Sheikh was put in a one man cell.”
Prosecutor asked, “I put it to you that the drug law enforcement officers don’t have a one man cell?” He answered, “Yes, they do, because the man who came for Sheikh said he put him in a one man cell.”
“I finally put it to you that you are inconsistent, unreliable, zero trust worthy before this court,” said the NDLEA prosecutor. The witness insisted that what he saw was what he informed the court.
The case was adjourned to the 12 April 2016 at 1pm for oral addresses from both the prosecution and defence.