‘Accused are brains of the country,’ says defence in GNPC trial

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Defence counsel Hawa Sisay-Sabally yesterday told the Banjul Magistrates’ Court that the accused persons in the GNPC case are brains of the country.

She made the statement, when she applied before Magistrate Omar Cham for the accused persons to be remanded where they had been in custody, but not at the remand wing of Mile 2 Prison.

When the case was called, lawyer Ida Drammeh said she was representing the 1st, 4th, and 6th accused persons. She was also together with lawyer Sissoho representing the 6th accused person.

Lamin S. Camara and A. Fatty represented the 2nd, 7th, and 9th accused persons, while Lubna Farage represented the 8th accused person.

Hawa Sisay-Sabally, Badou Conteh, Musa Batchilly and Yassin Senghore represented the 10th accused person.

Police prosecutor ASP Manga represented the Inspector General of Police.

Magistrate Cham told the court that the case was set for ruling on bail application for the accused persons.

He said he heard submissions from the prosecution and the defence, adding that section 9 of the Economic Crime Specified Offences Act states that economic crime cases are heard at the high court.

He adduced that the prosecution argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, hence it could not entertain it.

Magistrate Cham said the defence cited some authorities, referring to the constitution to support their argument.

“I shall follow the direction of section 9 of the Economic Crime Specified Offences Act,” he told the court.

He added that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, and ordered the case to be transferred to the high court.

He said the accused should be remanded in custody.

Hawa Sisay-Sabally asked the court to state where the accused should be remanded, adding that she was applying for the accused to be remanded where they were held in custody.

The court should make an order, so that nobody would have the discretion to decide where the accused should be remanded, counsel added.

Lawyer Camara associated himself with the submission made by Hawa Sisay-Sabally.

At this juncture, Ida Drammeh applied for the accused to have medical attention given by their own doctors.

Magistrate Cham said he would not make that order.

Ida Drammeh then told the magistrate that she should be recorded, even if he was going to refuse her application.

Magistrate Cham asked her to see him in his chambers, but Ida Drammeh said she wanted to make the application in an open court.

Prosecutor Manga said he heard the submission made by the defence, adding that he was not aware of any law that states that the accused should be remanded in any place other than the prison.

He stated that he respected the application made by the defence, but any security facility other than the prison has no remand facility.

He urged the court to overrule the application made by the defence, and order for the accused to be remanded at Mile 2 Prison.

Hawa Sisay-Sabally replied on points of law, and stated that whether at the NIA or prison, the state has a remand place because, since the accused were arrested, they had been remanded there, and the defence wanted the status quo to remain.

She argued that the prosecutor did not give any reasons why the accused should be kept in prison, and that the defence had not received any complaint from the state that they could not keep the accused.

She said the accused had spent all their lives in serving the country, citing section 208 (a) of the CPC.

Magistrate Cham then said he heard the submission made by Hawa Sisay-Sabally that the accused be remanded at the NIA premises.

Ida Drammeh then said she wished to make an application.

Magistrate Cham asked her to come formally, and she said she would not with due respect, and that she should be recorded.

She added that the magistrate is a judicial officer who should listen to applications, and make decisions on them.

Magistrate Cham asked her to see him in chambers and she said she would not, and that she would make her application in an open court.

The magistrate then rose and walked into his chambers.

When he returned to the courtroom, Ida Drammeh made two applications, that is, for her clients to be allowed medical attention by their own medical doctors who have their medical history; and, for the defence to be furnished with all the documents relating to the matter in the charges, so they could prepare their defence.

Prosecutor Manga said he had no problem with the accused getting medical attention, but could not guarantee that they would have their own medical doctors, adding that the state would provide medical doctors to the accused.

He added that with regard to the witness’ statements, the matter had been under investigation, and the court had transferred the case to the high court.

The defence could make an appropriate application at the high court, he continued.

Magistrate Cham ruled that he has maintained his earlier decision that the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case, and could not make an order for the accused to be allowed to have their own doctors to attend to them.

He said the needs of the accused would be taken care of by the authorities, adding that where the accused should be remanded would be decided by the state.

Author: Dawda Faye