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Darboe & Co case: Defence team walks out of courtroom

Jun 9, 2016, 11:20 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

The defence team led by senior counsel A.A.B. Gaye yesterday walked out of the courtroom, in the Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and nineteen others case, after the court refused the defence application for a stay of proceedings on counts 1, 2, 5 and 6 pending a suit before the Supreme Court.

This happened after the ruling of Justice E.O. Dada of the Banjul High Court, refusing to stay its proceedings on counts 1, 2, 5 and 6, pending the determination of the suit before the Supreme Court.

Delivering her ruling on whether or not to stay proceedings pending the suit before the Supreme Court, Justice Dada said she had looked at the arguments before her from both counsel, and the question was whether there was merit in the application to warrant her grant the application for a stay of proceedings.

She said the main issue before her was for a stay of proceedings, pending a suit before the Supreme Court.

She said she had agreed totally with the applicants’ counsel Bensouda when she said the case of Karnagie Mineral was not applicable in the case.

“I, therefore, hold that the Karnagie Mineral case does not apply to this case,” she said.

She added that there was a similarity between the previous application on referral of counts 5 and 6 to the Supreme Court, and the one which was for stay of proceedings pending a suit before the Supreme Court.

She said: “The application before me now is for a stay of proceedings on counts 1, 2, 5 and 6; so while the first application is limited to counts 5 and 6, and the other is on counts 1, 2, 5 and 6, the applications are similar.”

She said the suit before the Supreme Court is a separate case and had no merit on the case in question, adding that, therefore, the filing of the application on a stay of proceedings before the court was “an abuse” of the court’s process.

“I, therefore, hold that this application lacks merit and not worthy of my consideration. This application is dismissed, and I call on the state to open their case,” she declared.

At that juncture, senior counsel Gaye applied for a stand down to talk to their clients, which was granted for 10 minutes without any objection from the state.

Upon resuming, senior counsel Gaye said: “My lady has given us 10 minutes of stand down to talk to our clients. We took our clients to another court-room, but unfortunately we were not able to talk to them because the security personnel were present, and could not leave us to talk to our clients. I believe that the right of every accused person is to be allowed to talk to his or her lawyer, and what happened earlier is a persistent denial of the accused person’s right to talk to his or her lawyer.”

He continued: “Not all the accused persons are illiterates, but some are and that is why we have to talk to them in the local languages. We want the court to order for the accused persons to be allowed to talk to us without the constrained presence of the security personnel.”

Delivering ruling on that, the trial judge said the law gives every accused person the right to legal counsel.

She said the application was not that they were refused legal counsel, but the presence of the security personnel, who are bound by duty.

“It is my view that the constitution which gives that right is silent on the issue of the security being present. I see nothing offending to talk to the accused persons in the presence of the security, since the accused are under the custody of the security. So the court has no hand in this issue,” she ruled.

“In light of the ruling, we have a motion pending before the Supreme Court, and now pending before this court is a notice,” lead defence counsel Gaye submitted.

“We urge your lordship to give due diligence and respect to the apex court of The Gambia and not to proceed with counts 1, 2, 5 and 6 until the apex court deals with this application. We are ready to proceed with the counts which are not affected,” he continued.

In reply, the DPP said: “We are objecting, because this is nothing more than the issue that had just been decided upon. This process filed in the Supreme Court is an afterthought. They ought to file it with the main process, which is the subject of the ruling the court just delivered and, even if they had filed it with the main process, it would not have been considered.

“If they are not satisfied with the ruling they can appeal; so I ask my lord not to be disturbed with this notice, because it is not an appeal and not an extension of the case at hand.”

“What is before my lord today is not an application? We are not bringing any application, but a notice. It is principle of law that when a matter is before the Supreme Court you have to stop proceedings of that matter,” counsel Gaye then told the court.

Delivering her ruling, Justice Dada said she had looked at the document, and needed not to look further.

She said she previously refused to stay proceedings on those counts.

“I shall not stay proceedings on these counts or any other counts before me,” she announced.

At that juncture, counsel Gaye said: “With the continuous persistent refusal of the accused persons’ rights, we are no longer taking part in these proceedings.”

Counsel Gaye and his team of lawyers then walked out of the courtroom, followed by the UDP supporters and family members leaving only the judge, the DPP and the accused persons with the armed security personnel in court.

The DPP then asked for an adjournment, for hearing to commence.

The matter was then adjourned until today for hearing.