Criminal trial of the former director general of the defunct National
Intelligence Agency (NIA) and seven others continued yesterday before Justice
Kumba Sillah-Camara at the High Court in Banjul.
It could be recalled that the accused persons: Yankuba Badjie, Richard Louie Leese Gomez, Shekh Omar Jeng, Babucarr Sallah, Haruna Susso, Tamba Mansaray, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Lang Sanyang are charged with 26 counts including conspiracy to murder, murder, abduction, assault causing grievous bodily harm, making false document without proper authority amongst others.
Evidence of PW 19
Sheikh Tijan Camara, an official of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the 19th prosecution witness in the ongoing criminal trial involving the State and the eight former officials of the NIA told the court that on the 14th April, 2016 most staff at the then NIA were at work as they were on a standby in their various offices.
He testified that his working hours and days were on Monday to Thursday he worked from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. in the evening.
He further testified that the former DG of NIA, Yankuba Badjie, the first accused was at work on that very day and he saw him behind his office where the Gas Station is located.
The witness disclosed that he gave a witness statement to the police in connection to this matter on the 20th March, 2018, and thereabout on the 16th or the 17th March, 2018, he made cautionary statement to the police.
Responding to questions posed to him by defence counsel, C.E. Mene, the witness told the court that he was not aware whether the former DG of NIA, Yankuba Badjie went home on the 14th April, 2016 before 9:00 p.m.
The witness further told the court that he saw the 1st accused person’s vehicle at the filling Station inside the NIA premises.
The witness testified that he was never arrested by the authority in connection to the said case.
The witness admitted he gave cautionary statement to the police and he was never cautioned or no single words read to him before he made the statement, adding that he was given a cautionary form and he wrote his statement.
The witness told the court that he wrote his statement himself and when asked the colour of the former DG, NIA vehicle on that day, he replied that it was black but defence counsel Mene retorted that it was white Nissan Patrol car and not black but he maintained that it was black colour vehicle.
Asked if he knows that the former DG, NIA has a driver, the witness replied in the positive
Asked who did he see filling up the former DG, NIA vehicle, he replied that he didn’t see the person filing the vehicle because the vehicle stood as a barrier between him and the person filing the vehicle as a result he cannot tell who was filling the car.
The witness testified that in March 2018, he was aware that the trial was ongoing but wasn’t aware that several witnessing had already testified because he wasn’t concentrating on this case.
The witness told the court that he cannot remember the time he decided to testify in this case whether before or after his cautionary statement was taking because he was not under any stress in 2016.
Defence counsel, Mene then put it to him that if he cannot remember what transpired in 2018 but can remember what happened in 2016 then he must have been under pressure to testify in this case.
Lawyer Yassin Senghore , the prosecuting counsel raised objection to the defence and argued that the question put to the witness is a serious accusation against the prosecution that it coaxed him to testify in this case.
Lawyer Senghore further argued that the question was scandalous, adding that the defence cannot use the forum of cross examination to cast down the integrity of the prosecution or to make aspersions on the prosecution team.
She cited section 207 of the Evidence Act and urged the court to disallow the question and submitted that defence counsel Mene sought to annoy the prosecution team.
In his reply, counsel Mene told the court that he was shocked and surprised at the counsel over reaction, adding that not even the witness or himself has cast any aspersion on the prosecution team.
Mene told the court that the situation can easily be described in African saying that very old people get uncomfortable when dry bones are mentioned.
Lawyer Mene argued that there absolutely no references made to the prosecution team.
The presiding judge, however, ruled that the question was indeed scandalous.
The witness recalled visiting Yusupha Jammeh in Mile II prisons during his detention prior to his release after a nolle prosecui was filed by the Attorney General.
The witness told the court that during his visit to the Mile II prisons he never spoke with Sheikh Omar Jeng, the 3rd accused person.
The witness denied defence claims that during his meeting with Yusupha Jammeh in Mile II prisons he complained that he was under extreme pressure to testify in this case.
The witness explained that during his visit to Yusupha Jammeh, their discussion was on personal family issues.
The witness stress he talked about he was having in 2018 was not about coming forward to testify in this case but was purely family issues.
Asked if he can produce the cautionary statement he made to the Police, he replied that he was not the custodian of the statement.
Visit to the NIA premises by the court
The presiding judge disclosed that the court would be moved to the defunct NIA facility today at 12 noon and to Tanji on the 4th July, 2018.
Lawyer Antouman A.B. Gaye asked the court if members of press would be allowed to be part of the visit and he cited the 1997 Constitution provisions on freedom of the press.
“We have already make our own arrangements for the visit and it is not for the court to say that the visit to the NIA premises by the Press is guaranteed, it is for the press to make their own arrangements” she concluded.