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14 UDP supporters freed

Apr 22, 2014, 9:16 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

Fourteen supporters of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) were Thursday acquitted and discharged by principal magistrate Dayoh M. Small-Dago of the Brikama magistrates’ court.

They are Lamin Marong, Lamin Sonko, Foday Gassama, Maimuna Darboe, Ousman Drammeh, Sherrif Kinteh, Jerreh Fatty, Fakebba Colley, Sirreh Sonko, Bakary Gibba, Wandifa Kinteh, Kawsu Jaiteh, Yaya Njai and Lamin Njai.

Their acquittal and subsequent discharged followed a ruling delivered on the no-case-to-answer submission made by senior defence counsel Ousainou Darboe.

Delivering his ruling, the trial magistrate said the accused persons were charged with two counts of unlawful assembly and prohibition of conduct conducive to a breach of peace, which they all denied

He said the prosecution called six witnesses, tendered three exhibits and then closed their case.

He added that the defence counsel made a no-case submission, stating that the prosecution had failed to substantiate a prima facie case, despite having called six witnesses.

Counsel further stated that on count two, which was prohibition of conduct conducive to a breach of the peace, the accused persons were gathered on a private property which was not a public place.He said counsel also submitted that none of the witnesses corroborated any act of a breach of the peace, and they all confirmed the emptiness of the compound where the meeting took place.

The magistrate added that on count one, which was for unlawful assembly, counsel said there was nowhere in the definition of unlawful assembly that if there was no permit it was unlawful.

The prosecution, in response, had stated that from PW1 to PW4 all gave corroborative evidence without any dispute, he said, adding that the prosecution had relied on the submission made by counsel on the definition of unlawful assembly.

“I have carefully observed the evidence of the witnesses and went through the exhibits tendered in this case and section 166 of the CPC provides that, if at the close of evidence in support of the charge sheet that appears before the court, that a case was not made out against the accused sufficiently to require him or her make a defence, the court shall to that particular offence acquit and discharge the accused,” said the magistrate.

He added that the key element in determining this case was the word intent, adding that they must have an intention to commit an offence that would be conducive to a breach of the peace.

“No matter how large the assembly is, if there is no intention to commit an offence, it is not unlawful,” he said.

The prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves as PW1, the Alkalo said that he was not aware of the meeting and at the same time he did not go there, but knew that there was a meeting, he added.

He said PW2, the station officer, ASP Bahoum, said he did not ask anybody, but the same time said he asked them if they had a permit, and the accused persons said no.

PW1 said the meeting was held at one Zakaria’s compound, while PW3 said it was held under a mango tree, he continued.

He said PW4 also said he took the voluntary and cautionary statements of Wandifa Kinteh, but there was no evidence that showed that they had a political meeting.

PW6 also told the court that when he interviewed the accused persons they told him that it was not a political gathering, he said, adding that there was no consistency among the prosecution’s witnesses.

“The question is, whether they have an intention to commit an offence or is there any evidence that there assembly was unlawful and conducive to a breach of the peace,” he stated.“Therefore since there is no iota of truthful evidence laid by the prosecution against the accused persons, I hereby acquit and discharge them on count one,” said the magistrate.

On count two, which was for prohibition of conduct conducive to a breach of the peace, the magistrate said one must have an intention to create a breach of the peace.

He said according to the witnesses, the accused persons met under the mango tree and that there was no reaction that could breach the peace.

He said the only statement was made by the 4th accused, who said as UDP members they should not fear to show their political status, which according to the magistrate was his constitutional right.

“Therefore, I hold that there is no evidence laid against the accused persons by the prosecution on count two and I hereby acquit and discharge the accused persons on count two,” the magistrate declared.