The Special Criminal Court in Banjul presided over by Justice O. Ottaba yesterday denied Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and 19 others bail.
They were indicted on a seven-count charge of unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with vehicles, holding a procession without a permit, and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful and conspiracy.
The accused persons on the amended charge sheet are Ousainou Darboe, 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.
When the case was announced, DPP Barkun appeared for the state along with A.M. Yusuf, A.Y. Ammah, A. Bah, M. Koita and E.R Dougan.
The defence team was led by senior Counsel A.A.B. Gaye along with A.N. Bensouda, H.S. Sabally, O.M.M. Njie, A. Samba, R.Y. Mendy, N. Cham, Hajum Gaye, Lamin Darboe, Dayoh S. Small, M. Bachilly, Yasin Senghore, A. Sissoho, and S.M. Tambadou.
Delivering his ruling before a crowded courtroom, the trial judge said the accused persons are charged with seven counts ranging from unlawful assembly, to riot, 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, which they all denied.
He added that the defence filed their motion on bail on 21 April 2016, which was based on section 19 and 24 of the constitution of The Gambia and section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
He said each of the applicants filed an affidavit in support of the motion.
He said that in response, the DPP filed an affidavit in opposition replying to all the applicants individually.
Justice Ottaba said the applicants’ affidavit in support of the motion stated that the offences charged are all bailable and that they had people who would act as sureties when granted bail.
It was also stated that the applicants when admitted to bail would not jump bail or interfere with the witnesses or investigations.
The affidavit also stated that some of the applicants had medical problems, while others said they were breadwinners of their family.
It further stated that the offences are bailable and urged the court to grant the applicants bail.
They said the state had charged and brought the applicants to court, which means the investigation was over.
On the issue of national security, the applicants counsel stated that the charges did not state that it had anything to do with national security.
They, therefore, urged the court to exercise its discretion and admit the applicants to bail.
Justice Ottaba further said the respondents in their affidavit in opposition stated that investigations are still ongoing in the case, and that the applicants may flee the jurisdiction if granted bail.
It also stated that the applicants when released on bail might interfere with witnesses and the investigation, adding that “the offences are serious and concern national security.”
It was also stated that there was likelihood that the applicants might commit the offence again.
He said the state in their affidavit in opposition further stated that going through the affidavit in support, the applicants had woefully failed to convince the court in exercising its discretion.
It stated that the fact that they were sick did not warrant the court to admit them bail because there were medical facilities in prison.
The state, therefore, urged the court to refuse the bail application.
The judge added that replying on points of law; the applicants’ counsel stated that since the applicants are in detention the burden to justify bail could not be placed on them.
The applicants’ counsel, therefore, said the court should consider the presumption of innocence of the accused persons and admit them to bail on reasonable terms.
“It is factual that bail is not a matter of cost or automatic, but it depends on the facts, circumstances and peculiarities of the case,” the judge said.
He said there was no doubt that the offences the applicants are charged with touched on the security and peace of the country.
He added that the charge brought against the applicants was serious and, therefore, granting them bail might send a wrong signal to the society.
He added that with regard to the materials before the court there was a prima facie case against the applicants, and there was a possibility of the applicants jumping bail, particularly the 15th applicant, Fanta Darboe.
“In view of the facts, circumstances, peculiarities, nature of the offence, severity of the punishment, and the prima facie case against the accused persons, I therefore hold that this application lacks merit and hereby dismissed,” the judge announced.