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Court orders prosecution case close in kidnapping trial

Mar 9, 2011, 1:08 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Justice J.E.Ikpala of the Special Criminal Court Monday ordered the closure of the prosecution’s case in the criminal trial of six Nigerian nationals and their Gambian accomplice who allegedly kidnapped an Australian national, Justin Liebig.

This followed the testimony of the thirteenth prosecution witness, a police officer attached to Kairaba Police Station, who told the court that he cautioned some of the accused persons, but could not recall their names, which the court considered as retarding the speedy trial of the case.

Subsequently, the judge ordered the closure of the prosecution’s case, and called on the accused persons to open their defence.

The seven accused persons are Joseph Okeke (alias Charles or Doctor) Nanso Mbasoh, Onuwa Ibaim, Nonso Odowa, Arinze Izuchukwu, Pius Patrick, and Awa Touray, their alleged Gambian accomplice, all arraigned by state prosecutors for alleged conspiracy, kidnapping, obtaining money by false pretence and stealing, amongst others.

Testifying as PW13, Badara Sam told the superior court that he is police officer attached to Kairaba Police Station, but was posted at Kotu Police Station during the alleged offence.

According to the witness, the accused persons were brought to Kotu Police Station in connection with an alleged kidnapping of an Australian national Justin Liebig, adducing that he cautioned two of the accused persons, whom he could not remember by name.

After several attempts to recall the two accused persons he reportedly cautioned, the witness angered the trial judge, who told him that as police officer he should be able to recall the suspect’s name.

“I will discharge the witness from the box because he was not sure of what he is saying and failing to give correct evidence. You did not prepare yourself before coming to court as a police officer,” Justice Ikpala told the officer.

He told the police officer that the accused persons’ freedom and liberty is at stake.

The state prosecutor, Nyameh Jallow, informed the court that the prosecution’s next witness would be around next week, but Justice JE Ikpala told the court that he has closed the prosecution’s case because the behavior of the witness is retarding a speedy trial, and ordered the accused persons to open their defence.

The attorney for the 1st and 5th accused persons, Lawyer Uzoma, told the court that his clients will be opening their defence .

The case was then adjourned till today for defence.

The suspects it would be recalled were first arraigned at the Budung Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 12 February 2009, where the case was later transferred to the Special Criminal Court of the High Court in Banjul, which was established to try suspects who commit capital offences. 

The police who apprehended the suspects alleged that the 71-year-old Australian national, Justin Liebig, was held captive from 1st to 9th February 2009.

The accused persons were expected to open their defence yesterday but the case could not proceed and was adjourned till the 22nd March 2011.