Dec 5, 2012, 9:07 AM
One of the eight foreign nationals recently convicted by the Banjul Magistrates’ Court and sentenced to 50 years in prison with hard labour on charges of drug trafficking and possession, has filed an appeal against the lower court’s verdict.
Ephriam Micheal Chiduben, a Nigerian was found guilty alongside seven others of possession and trafficking of cocaine worth over 2 billion dollars.
His lawyer, Emmanuel Chime, yesterday filed his appeal, telling the court presided over by Justice Lamin Jobarteh that his client, having been dissatisfied with the judgment of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court will appeal to the high court.
Lawyer Chime submitted that he has filed a motion for the records of proceedings to be made available to him, but could not lay hands on them nor have access to the lower court’s judgment.
The point of counsel was that his client was convicted twice for the same drug offence, which according to him, is unconstitutional, referring the court to section 24 (6) of the constitution of The Gambia.
After hearing from counsel, Justice Jobarteh ordered the principal registrar of the High Court to make available the records of proceedings to the court, not later than two weeks, in order to commence hearing of the appeal.
Judge Jobarteh subsequently adjourned the matter to 3 November 2011 for mention.
The grounds of appeal filed by Lawyer EE Chime and seen by this reporter, among others, stated that the principal magistrate erred in law by convicting the appellant against the evidence of prosecution witnesses, and that none of the co-accused persons admitted that the appellant was ever involved in the 2 tonnes 370 kilogram’s and 370 grams of cocaine, being the subject of the charge and conviction.
The particulars of error, according to the notice of appeal, is that prosecution witnesses, precisely PW8 and PW10, who were members of the panel that investigated the 2 tons, 370 kilogram and 380 grams of cocaine, gave evidence to the fact that the appellant was and or is completely innocent of the charges, for which he was arraigned before lower court.
“The said PW8 and PW10 in their evidence stated that the appellant has also never been to Bonto village, where the aforementioned cocaine was found, yet the learned magistrate proceeded to convict the appellant against the weight of the evidence in the appellant’s favor. Again none of the co accused/convicts admitted in their evidence and under cross-examination that the appellant was involved in the 2 tons 370kg and 380 grams of cocaine,” Lawyer Chime said in his particulars of error.
He said the judgment is against the weight of the evidence, and urged the court to discharge and acquit the convicted person.
It would be recalled that Ephriam Micheal Chiduben was convicted and sentenced on 1st December 2010 alongside three others namely, Meminatou Sisay, Fernanodo Varela, and Godwin Barset to a mandatory jail term of one year six months and a fine of two million dalasis or in default to serve 5 years imprisonment making it a total of 6 years 6 months.
They were accused of being in possession of three parcels of cocaine, a prohibited drug for the purpose of drug trafficking, weighing 3 Kg 360 grams.
He was again convicted and sentenced along with seven others to a mandatory prison term of 50 years behind bars plus an additional fine of D50 million.
They were all found guilty of charges of conspiracy to traffic in prohibited drugs, trafficking in drugs, dealing in prohibited drugs, having firearm without authority, importation of firearm without authority, among others.
The other accused persons are 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, a Dutch national, and Dennis Wilgo Winter also as Dutch national, who died in prison, the court was informed.