High Court convicts Taranga FM MD, orders his arrest

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Banjul High Court presided over by Justice E.O. Dada yesterday convicted and ordered the arrest of Taranga FM Managing Director Alajie Abdoulie Ceesay.

On counts 1 and 2, which were consolidated as count 1 by the judge, he was sentenced to 1-year imprisonment and a fine of D100,000.

On counts 3, 4, 5 and 6 also consolidated as count 2, he was sentenced to 1-year imprisonment and a fine of D100,000.

In default of paying the fines, he would serve 2 years in prison.

On count 7 consolidated as count 3, which was about false publication, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

The sentences are to run consecutively, and without hard labour.

The trial judge said in view of the fact that the convict has ran away from his case, an order would be served on the IGP to apprehend and arrest him as a fugitive to be brought to serve his sentence.

The sentences shall take effect when the convict is in the country.

Abdoulie Ceesay was facing 7 counts of seditious intention and false publication.

When the matter was called for judgment, counsel B. Jeng appeared for the state, whilst C. Gaye appeared for the state.

Delivering her ruling, the trial judge said the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges and, whilst the trial was going on, the accused escaped and ran away from his case while being admitted at the hospital.

She added that the prosecution in proving their case called 4 witnesses and tendered exhibits.

She added that PW2 testified in court, but before the defence could conclude their cross-examination, the witness left the jurisdiction.

She said the defence then applied for PW2’s evidence to be expunged since the witness was not available for cross-examination.

The DPP objected on the grounds that the evidence was relevant in this case.

At the closure of the prosecution’s case, the defence filed a no-case-to-answer submission, which was dismissed on the grounds that there was a prima facie case against the accused.

She added that the accused was then called upon to enter his defence, but counsel for the accused informed the court that the accused opted to remain silent as in exercising his constitutional right to remain silent.

The trial judge said that the court then proceeded to address, and on the day of adoption of addresses the accused was absent.

She said a prison officer then informed the court that the accused escaped while receiving treatment at the EFSTH.

The application by the defence that the trial could not proceed in the absence of the accused was dismissed, and briefs were adopted.

The DPP, in his address, said that the evidence adduced in court was sufficient enough to show that a prima facie case had been laid against the accused person.

The DPP further said since the accused had opted to remain silent, the evidence adduced by the prosecution witnesses remained unchallenged and were deemed admitted.

He urged the court to proceed and convict the accused person.

The DPP added that wherein the prosecution had laid a prima facie case against the accused persons, it was up to the accused to convince the court why he should not be convicted.

Senior Counsel Gaye, in her address, said the DPP’s application was misconceived because the accused had constitutional rights to remain silent.

Counsel Gaye said that in order to prove that the seditious materials were sufficient enough to warrant conviction, the question was whether the alleged materials were seditious.

Counsel said the author of the material had advised people to stay at home, which was calm and not violent.

Counsel argued that it could not be certain that the accused had seditious intention by sending messages to two ladies he was closely related to.

Counsel said sending messages to two persons did not amount to false publication.

The trial judge said from the totality of the case, it was a fact that the accused did not testify in the case and the only material before the court was the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and exhibits tendered.

That the witness who did not present herself for cross-examination did not mean that it was inadmissible.

She said she would rely on the evidence from PW2 that she and the accused exchanged messages, but she chose not to rely on the rest of PW2’s evidence for the fact that she did not conclude cross-examination.

It was her considered view that any citizen of The Gambia who receives that message would not take it lightly, barely six months after a failed coup.

She, therefore, held that the message was inciting treason and commotion and, therefore, it was seditious.

She said every message on social media is all on the internet, which is on the World Wide Web.

It was her considered view, and she held it boldly, that any message on the internet is publication.

“It is my conclusion that the accused was rightly charged with sedition and false publication. This is a proper case to convict. I, therefore, reduced the 7 counts to three.

Counts 1 and 2 as count 1, 3 to 6 as counts 2 and 7 as count 3.

“The accused is convicted, and I call upon counsel for plea of mitigation before passing sentence.”

In her plea of mitigation, Counsel C. Gaye informed the court that the convict was a first-time offender.

She said the convict is 26-year-old and has learned his lesson on how to use social media.

She pleaded for the court not to impose custodial sentence on the convict.

The accused was subsequently convicted and sentenced as reported above. 

Author: Halimatou Ceesay
Source: Picture: Alajie Abdoulie Ceesay