Mar 16, 2012, 1:48 PM
They were charged with seven counts of unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, holding procession without a permit, idle and disorderly behavior, common nuisance and prohibition of conduct conducive to the breach of the peace.
This followed the observation of Magistrate Abeke of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court that the accused persons were not present in court.
When the case was called, Janet Sallah-Njie, said he was representing the accused persons along with lawyers Anna Njie, Neneh Cham, Coumba Gaye-Coker, Lubna Farage, Haddy Dandeh Jabbie, Yassin Senghore, R. Mendy, Sagarr Jahateh and F. Mahoney, as members of the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia.
Sub-Inspector Colley announced his representation for the IGP.
Counsel Sallah-Njie told the court that as rightly observed by the magistrate, the accused persons were not present before the court, and this being a criminal charge, the charges were not struck out.
She said the matter could not proceed in the absence of the accused persons.
She argued that based on the record, the last time the case came up, an application was made for the release of the accused persons which was not granted, adding that the court ordered that the accused persons should be granted police bail, because a lactating mother and an elderly person who is ill, and who nearly collapsed, were in detention.
She told the court that the accused persons were not granted police bail, adding that not only that, but the defence counsel had been denied access to the accused persons.
Counsel Sallah-Njie further told the court that to make matters worse, the accused persons were not present in court, adding that the prosecutor should be able to explain why the order of the court was not complied with, and why the accused persons were not present in court.
She adduced further that it is a criminal trial and the accused persons must be present, adding that the court should not only demand an explanation but should order the prosecution to produce the accused persons to be before the court, bearing in mind that the order was made.
As an alternative, she stated, they wanted the court to order for the release of the accused persons unconditionally, based on the provision of the constitution by virtue of subsection 19 which guarantees the rights of the accused persons to be granted bail.
She further argued that section 53 of the Women’s Act is not only a law in The Gambia, but it also reinforces our cultural and social values, adding that the elderly woman who was limping is entitled to a favourable discretion by the court by virtue of section 53 of the Women’s Act.
She urged the court to order for the release of the elderly person, Isatou Saidy, who is over sixty years old.
Regarding the lactating mother, Kaddy Samateh, she referred the court to section 55 of the Women’s Act, adding that the provision is applicable to all the women who were charged.
Counsel Sallah-Njie adduced that the PIU, where the accused persons are detained, is not an environment suitable for a lactating mother, adding that the prosecution were flouting the rights of the mother and the baby, who is one month old and another child who is two years old.
At this juncture, she cited many authorities to support her argument.
She subsequently urged the court to order the release of the vulnerable accused persons, whose fundamental rights have been flouted immediately.
Sub-Inspector Colley rose and told the court that the accused persons in the case are not under the custody of the Serrekunda Police Station, adding that they are under the custody of another security unit of the police.
He said the prosecution was not in the position to clarify why the accused persons were not in court.
“To summarise the whole submission, the case file in the matter has been sent to the Attorney General’s Chamber. Our instructions are that the state is coming to take over the matter through the DPP, who is empowered by section 85(b) of the 1997 constitution to undertake and continue any criminal proceedings. Further instructions are that there will be additional charges and additional accused persons,” he told the court.
Regarding orders by the court for the accused persons to be granted police bail and be given medical attention, he said that the police have no intention to disrespect the order of the court.
The case was adjourned until today for ruling.