By Rohey Jadama
Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara of the Banjul High court has yesterday 22 May, 2017 given last chance to the prosecution for them to proceed with the criminal trial of Mr. Yankuba Badjie, the former Director General of the defunct National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and eight other officials of the said institution.
The other accused persons are Louis Gomez, former Deputy Director, Saikou Omar Jeng, former director of Operations, Haruna Susso, Yusupha Jammeh, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe, Baboucarr Sallah, and Lamin Lang Sanyang, all operatives of the NIA.
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 Lawyer Auwalu Yaqubu told the court that they didn’t have a witness in court. He added that he thought the case was for mention only. He, however, again requested for a short adjournment.
The trial judge replied that the case was adjourned for mention and for the third prosecution witness to testify. She added that the prosecution cannot come and say that the matter is for mention. She said the prosecution requested for time and now they are delaying the case.
However, the prosecution’s application for a short adjournment was vehemently objected to by Christopher Mene, defence Attorney for the 1st accused person, who contended that the application lacks merit and argued that the prosecution must give compelling reasons for an adjournment.
Lawyer Mene, further argued that the court is not a storage facility and that when the prosecution requested for time they were not explicit and that the matter was adjourned in open court in front of everyone so that they can produce PW3 at the next adjourned date.
“This is a delaying tactic and my lady should not condone that. They have two weeks. The matter should be struck out and the accused persons be discharged. The accused are denied their constitutional right to a speedy trial and their right to liberty is jeopardized”, Lawyer Mene submitted.
Lawyer Edward A. Gomez, Attorney for the 2nd accused also associated himself with the submission of Lawyer Mene, adding that he is vehemently objecting to the application.
He cited Chapter 4 section 17(4) of the 1997 constitution. “These rights shall be enforced by the court.” It is mandatory. Such liberties are sacrosanct, inviolable and non- negotiable, he submitted
Lawyer Gomez submitted that the constitution should be respected and upheld under any circumstance. He submitted that the case against all the accused persons be struck out and the accused persons be discharged.
M.B. Johnson Richards, counsel for the 3rd accused person also told the court that he is objecting to the application of the prosecution for an adjournment and added that he associated himself with the submission of his learned friends.
He urged the court to exercise its discretion judicially and judiciously. He argued that section 19(5) mandates the court to grant bail irrespective of the criminal case. He urged the court to grant bail in stiff but reasonable conditions.
Lawyers U Achiegwe, S. Kenedy and D. Dago also associated themselves with the submission of the other defence counsels.
In her ruling Justice Sillah-Camara said after listening to the submissions of the defence counsels it is clear that the prosecution is not serious with the case.
However, the presiding judge said the court is minded of the gravity of the offences charged and that the prosecution is given a last chance to proceed with the case.
On the issue of granting bail to the accused persons, she said the charges are not bailable and that section 19(5) will be the last resort.
Consequently, the case was adjourned till Monday 29 May, 2017 at 12 noon for the third prosecution witness to testify.