Absence of defence counsel, interpreter hinders proceedings in NIA trial

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The criminal trial involving nine former officials of the defunct NIA now SIS could not proceed yesterday, 7th of March, 2018 before presiding Judge Kumba Sillah-Camara at the High Court in Banjul due to lack of a competent court interpreter and absence of some defence counsel in court.

The matter which was slated for continuation cross examination of the 12th prosecution witness, Malang Sonko and continuation of testimony of Mbemba Camara, the 13th prosecution witness was adjourned by Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara after the court could not secure a competent Mandinka language interpreter and the absence of legal counsel for the 4th, 5th, 6th,7th ,8th and 9th accused persons.

Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara who stood the matter down observed that the defence counsel for the aforementioned accused persons were indisposed without notifying the court any reasons for their absence; lamented the fact that these counsels abandoned their clients without giving any reason for their absence.

Justice Camara said since the accused persons are charged with capital offences the case cannot proceed in the absence of the accused persons’ legal counsels.

The trial judge pointed out that these counsels have a duty to their clients and the court whilst she queried that lawyers cannot abandon their clients.

The issue of Mandinka language interpreter recently generated a heated debate in the court after both the prosecution and the defence team acknowledged that the erstwhile interpreter was not interpreting what was being said by a witness correctly.

During yesterday’s sittings, the presiding judge informed the court that the Judicial Secretary Landing M. Sanneh was informed to facilitate the provision of an interpreter.

After waiting for awhile, defence counsel for the 1st accused person, lawyer C.E. Mene suggested that the matter be stood down for about 15 minutes to enable the court sort out the issue of an interpreter.

Veteran lawyer Antouman A.B. Gaye disclosed that it is grossly improper for the judge to sit and wait for an interpreter to come which should have been the other way.

Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara opined that the prosecution could interject the two witnesses and called another witness who speaks English language.

The matter was then adjourned to Monday, 12th of March, 2018 for continuation of hearing.

Author: Bruce Asemota