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Bonto Alkalo cross examined in cocaine trial

Sep 16, 2010, 11:46 AM | Article By: Bakary Samateh & M.K. Marenah

Following his testimony in the trial of nine accused persons, who were recently arrested with over two tonnes of cocaine in Bonto, Western Region, the prosecution's first witness, Modou Lamin Kebbeh, alkalo (village head) of Bonto was on Tuesday cross-examined.

Under cross-examination by EE Chime, counsel for the 8th accused, Mr. Kebbeh said the 8th accused person's face may have changed, when counsel put it to him that he had never seen the 8th accused because he had never been to Bonto.

Quizzed by counsel as to when he saw the 8th accused person in Bonto, the witness responded that this was within the period of 2009-10.

Defence counsel Chime then put it to him that the 8th accused person first visited the Gambia on 1st May 2010. In reply, the witness said, "then it could be a wrong face I saw".

Further cross-examined by Lamin Camara, counsel for all the other accused persons, except the 8th, the prosecution witness admitted that he is literate, and was in Spain for seven years. "Is it correct that you speak good Spanish?" counsel asked the witness, who replied, "Yes, because I was in Barcelona."

Prosecution witness Kebbeh told the court that he was in Barcelona, Spain, from 1980-1986, but he did not know where Pepe, a Spanish national, lives in Spain.

"Is it correct that you and Pepe are good friends?" defence counsel Camara asked the witness. Kebbeh responded that when Pepe came and realised that he (Kebbeh) can speak Spanish, Pepe got interested in chatting with him and, as a result, he (the witness) got information about the hole they dug at Bonto. Kebbeh also admitted making statements to the investigation panel on this matter.

He told the court that he made three statements at the NIA, three statements to the security officers at Hollgam Fishing Company in Kanifing, and the last one was on Monday at the NIA.

At this stage, defence counsel Camara applied to the court for the statements of the witness to be made available to the defence.

Director of Public Prosecutions R.N. Chenge then rose and told the court that they are strongly objecting to the defence counsel's application on the grounds that the defence did not cite any law or authority for the said statement to be provided by the state to the defence.

DPP adduced that what the counsel is asking for indirectly convert to summary trial by information, while making reference to Gambian authorities such as Musa Susso versus the State and Reverend Benny Manga versus the State.

He said that in the case of Musa Susso versus the State, where Justice Wowo was the presiding judge (now Court of Appeal Judge) he (Justice Wowo) held that the prosecution was not duty bound to provide the defence with information under the summary trial.

He added that this court made the same pronouncement in the case of Willy Joof, where the court made a similar ruling.

In response to the DPP's objection, defence counsel LS Camara submitted that the cases cited by the DPP have been misconstituted, because the issue before the court was pre-trial service of the statements of the witness.

He submitted that assuming without conceding that the DPP is right, counsel said the DPP did not give a detailed citation of the cases; and moreover, the application before the court was for the production of the witness' statements that the witness himself has testified he gave to the investigating panel.

Counsel cited section 24(3) of the 1997 constitution, which he read in court, stating that the element of surprise does not apply in criminal proceedings.

"I urge the court to overrule the objection and order for the production of the statement," Camara submitted.

In his ruling, Magistrate Hilary U Abeke overruled the defence counsel's application and subsequently adjourned the case to 16th and 21st September 2010 for continuation of cross-examination.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related development, the cocaine trial of three others namely, Munina Sisay, Fernando Verela, and Godwin Barset whose trial has been separated from the other accused persons, has been adjourned for hearing following the application by Chief Inspector Abdoulie Ceesay of the NDEA for an adjournment to enable them call their witnesses.

The three accused persons, all foreign nationals, are now facing a one-count charge of being in possession of prohibited drugs (cocaine) for the purpose of trafficking.

The prosecutors claimed that the accused persons were on 12th May 2010 at Taf Housing Estate in Brufut found in possession of three parcels of cocaine, a prohibited drug, weighting 3 kilos and 360g, for the purpose of trafficking. 

This particular case was adjourned to 23rd September 2010 for hearing.