Banjul High Court presided over by Justice E.O. Dada yesterday sentenced the
leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and 18
others, to three (3) years in prison without hard labour.
The judge also struck out the name of the 6th accused, Yaya Bah.
The accused persons were convicted on counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 while count 3, which is incitement of violence, was not proved by the prosecution.
All the accused persons were convicted accordingly: count one, 1-year imprisonment, county two, 6 months, count four, 6 months, count five, 3 years, count 6, 3 years, and count seven, 6 months.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
The other accused persons are Kemeseng Jammeh, Femi Peters, Lamin Dibba, Lamin Jatta, Yaya Bah, Babucarr Camara, Fakebba Colley, Ismaila Ceesay, Momodou Fatty, Dodou Ceesay, Samba Kinteh, Mamudou Manneh, Nfamara Kuyateh, Fanta Darboe, Lamin Njie, Jukuna Suso, Momodou L.K. Sanneh, Yaya Jammeh and Masanneh Lalo Jawla.
They were indicted on seven counts of unlawful assembly, riot, and incitement of violence, riotously interfering with vehicles, holding a procession without a permit, and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession, and conspiracy.
The court was crowded by the UDP supporters, who came from across the country to witness the judgment of their party leader and his members.
The leader of the PDOIS party, Halifa Sallah and GDC leader Mama Kandeh were also in attendance, as well as members of the Gambia Bar and students of the law school, amidst a heavy security.
Delivering her judgment, the trial judge said the accused were charged with seven counts and they pleaded not guilty.
She said the prosecution opened their case and called 11 witnesses, adding that the accused persons failed to open their defence or file a written address.
She said the court turned down the bail applications of the accused persons on the grounds that the charges show they posed a security threat to the nation.
She also said there were several applications brought by the defence for the court to a stay its proceedings, which were also turned down.
The prosecution was then called upon to open their case, she added.
The judge also stated that the defence team led by senior counsel Gaye also walked out of the case, on the grounds that there was a “persistent denial” of the accused persons’ rights.
At the closure of the prosecution’s case, the accused persons were called upon to enter their defence, but they failed to do so.
They also failed to file an address, and the prosecution’s address was adopted and the matter set for judgment.
Justice Dada said that, in his address, the DPP said the state had proven its case against the accused persons beyond all reasonable doubt, and that the accused persons’ failure to participate in the trial showed that they tended to rest their case on the prosecution.
The DPP then urged the court to convict the accused persons, she said, adding that it was her view that the accused persons’ refusal to participate in the case meant they tended to rest their case on the prosecution.
She added that the evidence before the court was that the accused persons demonstrated without a permit, and that caused panic in the neighbourhood.
The prosecution had proven the burden of their case beyond reasonable doubt on counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7, but failed to prove count 3, which was therefore struck out.
She said that while Yaya Bah could be believed that he had “nothing to do with the matter”, Fanta Darboe, who said she paid a visit to her uncle, was not persuasive upon deciding to remain silent.
The judge, therefore, struck out Yaya Bah’s name from the charge sheet.
She said the accused persons have been mute throughout the trial, and that they would not be allowed to do a plea of mitigation, as the 1st accused might misuse it to the detriment of the court.
The 1st accused had said the Nigerian Judges were infringing upon the rights of Gambians, but that she wanted “to assure the good people of The Gambia that the Nigerian Judges are here to uphold the laws of The Gambia”.
She, therefore, sentenced them accordingly.
After her verdict, Darboe and the rest of the accused persons got up and started singing the National Anthem, while the supporters and family members started weeping, as they said good-bye to their loved ones.