Mar 17, 2009, 7:20 AM
The trial of nine foreign nationals for alleged trafficking in cocaine, and for being in possession of two and half tonnes of cocaine resumed yesterday at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court before Principal Emmanuel Nkea.
The nine accused persons are Ephriam Micheal Chiduben, a Nigerian national, Juan Carlos Sanchez; Eric Bottini, Dose Fermin, Juan Carlos Diaz, and Esteaban Zavala, all Venezuelan nationals; George Sanchez, a Mexican/Liberian national, as well as Rudy Rasoehamid Gazi and Dennis Wilgo Winter, both Dutch nationals.
They have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to trafficking in prohibited drugs, trafficking in drugs, dealing in prohibited drugs, having firearm without authority, importation of firearm without authority, among others.
However, the case could not proceed on Tuesday, as the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, M. Abdullahi, told the court that the prosecution could not serve the defence with the witnesses’ statements and voluntary statements as ordered by the court on 18th November 2010, due to circumstances beyond their control.
“The prosecution made efforts in order to serve the defence all the statements, which involves some photocopying, and all our three photocopying machines are not functioning,” he added.
“We were only able to serve the defence with three cautionary statements of the 3rd, 6th and 3rd accused persons those that we wanted to tender in court yesterday, which our printer did allow us to print,” Abdullahi continued.
He said in the interest of justice and progress for the accused persons, who have been in remand custody for a long time, it was better for the defence to allow the court to proceed with the case on Tuesday.
“If the defence counsel cannot cross-examine the witness, then the court can adjourned the case for cross-examination,” he adduced.
Responding to the DDPP’s submission, defence counsel Lamin S Camara told the court that the defence could not proceed with the case.
“On 18th November 2010, this court ordered the prosecution to serve the defence all the witness statements and voluntary statements, but the prosecution failed to do so on time,” he said.
“The prosecution has served the defence just five minutes before the proceedings, whereas the DDPP had more time to serve the defence,” he added.
Counsel further told the court that the prosecution served the defence with only three witness statements, that of the 3rd, 6th, 7th, accused persons, but the rest for other five were not served.
Camara added that this was not a trial by ambush, but a trial by law; therefore, it was not justifiable for the prosecution to pick and choose what to serve the defence and what not to.
“I am, therefore, urging the court to grant an adjournment, and also for prosecution to serve the defence with the rest of the statements by the next adjournment date.
Magistrate Nkea subsequently ordered the prosecution to serve to the defence all the witness statements, and documents relating to the case.
He henceforth ordered that the case would be heard every Thursdays and Tuesdays at 2 pm.
Hearing continues on 25th November 2010.