NIA 9 Trial: State urged to produce witness or risk closure of case

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara of the High Court in Banjul yesterday called on the state to produce their 3rd prosecution witness on the next adjourned date or close the case.

Presiding judge made this declaration when delivering a ruling in the application made by the state for an adjournment and the objection raised by the defence to discharge the accused persons in the criminal trial involving the state against the nine former NIA officials who are undergoing criminal trial.

The accused persons are Yankuba Badjie, the former DG NIA, Loiue Richards Leese Gomez, Sheikh Omar Jeng, Babucarr Sallah, Yusupha Jammeh, Haruna Susso, Tamba Mansary, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Lang Sanyang.

They are charged with multiple offences including murder, assaults causing actual bodily harm, conspiracy to commit misdemeanor, forgery and making false documents.

When the case came up, state counsel A. Yankubu told the court that he has no witness and that he received instruction that the matter was scheduled for mention and the hearing was slated for the 29 May 2017.

At this point, the presiding judge opened the court record dated 10 May 2017 and read the portion where it was recorded that the matter was mentioned and adjourned to yesterday for the state to call the 3rd witness.

She disclosed that the state had indicated that they were considering hiring a special prosecutor to handle the case.

Lawyer C.E. Mene, defence counsel for the 1st accused, argued that the application by the state for an adjournment was completely devoid of any merit, noting that granting an adjournment was at the discretion of the court.

He said the applicant should give cogent reasons to invite the court to go through the proceedings.

Lawyer Mene pointed out that the trial had been stalled by the number of adjournments at the request of the prosecution.

“Initially, the state said they were not ready and brought the charge to the court as if the court is a storage facility.  Thereafter, they called two witnesses, and after they said they want an adjournment because they want to organise the prosecution,” he said.

Lawyer Mene revealed that the matter was adjourned for the state to call the 3rd witness, “only for them to come to court to say that the matter was coming up yesterday for mention”.

Counsel Mene further submitted that the attitude was scandalous and should not be condoned by the court.

He urged the court to discharge the accused persons.

Lawyer Edward Gomez, counsel for the 2nd accused, associated himself with submissions of lawyer Mene.

He cited plethora of sections from the 1997 constitution of The Gambia which guarantees the freedom and rights of the accused persons and urged the court to strike out the charges and discharge them.

Defence counsel, M.B. Johnson Richards for the 3rd accused person associated himself with the submission of both lawyer C.E Mene and Edward Gomez and called on the court’s attention to the press conference held by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambedou, saying that the minister said his ministry was not ready to prosecute the matter.

Lawyer Moses Richards averred that the minister mentioned that everything was hurriedly done and it has been clearly manifested now.

He argued that the action of the prosecution now has caused untold hardship on the accused persons and he, therefore, urged the court to grant the accused persons bail, citing several sections of the 1997 constitution.

Meanwhile, Lawyer S. Kennedy for the 4th 5th 7th and 8th accused persons, lawyer Uzoma Achigbue for the 6th accused person and lawyer S. Dago for the 9th accused person, all associated themselves with the submissions of the previous counsel and also urged the court to discharge the accused persons.

The presiding judge indicated that the prosecution was exploring delay tactics in the matter but would be given the last chance to produce their witness and that failure to do so on the next adjourned date would see the prosecution called upon to close the case.

The matter was adjourned until 29 May 2017.

Source: Bruce Asemota