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Defence continues in Gamcotrap case

Aug 26, 2011, 12:10 PM | Article By: Yusuf Ceesay

Dr. Isatou Touray, executive director of Gamcotrap, yesterday continued her defence testimony in the trial for alleged theft involving her and Mrs Amie Bojang-Sisoho, programme co-ordinator of the same organization, at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate Tabally.

The two prominent women’s rights activists allegedly, in 2009 in Banjul and diverse places in The Gambia, jointly stole 30,000 Euro being money provided by the YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD of Spain to Gamcotrap.

Continuing her defence, Dr Touray told the court that when Suzi came to The Gambia, she (Dr. Touray) and her team with Suzi visited their project sites.

“After we came back, Gamcotrap held a meeting with Suzi. In that meeting we all agreed that the project’s activities should be implemented and all documents pertaining to the project were given to Suzi,” she told the court.

She said when Suzi went back to Spain, Gamcotrap started implementing the project.

“In August 2009, YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD Director Begona Ballesteros Sanchez visited The Gambia, and we went on a monitoring trip together with her of our project sites in Koina in URR and Brikama Ba in the CRR respectively,” said the first accused person.

After the monitoring trip, she continued, they prepared a monitoring report and agreed on a date for the drop of the knife for 36 circumcisers.

Dr. Touray added that, later, Gamcotrap wrote a report and held a workshop at the Paradise Suites Hotel attended by participants from Senegal, Mali, Guinea Bissau and The Gambia.

She said the workshop was also witnessed by a representative of UNICEF, UNFPA and a representative of the Spanish consul in The Gambia.

According to her, the report of the workshop was on sharing the best practices to lead to the public declarations to the dropping of knives.

She further stated that the workshop was also attended by TOSTAN representatives, who are also working against FGM.

The executive Director of YALOCAMBASOLIDARIDAD, Begona Ballestero Sanchez, was at the workshop, Dr. Touray went on, adding that the workshop was jointly organized with them.

“That was the end of the project for 2009,” said the Gamcotrap executive director.

She told the court that after the workshop, the report was given to her and she left for Spain.

“We later received an email from her that they needed a receipt for 30,000 euro on behalf of YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD,” she added.

The said email was shown to her, which she identified, and it was tendered as exhibit 13.

She went on to say that after consultations with Gamcotrap staff, they responded to her that they have already given all the documents regarding the 2009 project.

The replied email document and the report of end of 2009 project were all tendered in court as exhibits, after they were identified by the witness.

Dr. Touray told the court that Gamcotrap was shocked after receiving that email, because all documents of 2009 were given to the Executive Director YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD.

According to her, they were waiting for a D10 million project, of which D5 million had been approved by the Region in Madrid that they had already discussed with the YALOCAMBA Director.

She indicated that after submitting their implementation plan, YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD   Director also submitted project plans written in Spanish for signing.

She said she replied to the director that she could not sign a document, the contents of which she did not know.

“She told me to follow the same procedure like the first one, because they already presented their proposal in English,” Dr. Touray told the court, adding that she advised her to take the contract document back to Spain and translate it into English so that she could sign it, which the Yalocomba director agreed to do.

“The director apologized to us for making that mistake, in front of the staff of Gamcotrap,” Dr. Touray added.

She adduced that when the YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD director came to The Gambia, she told her that she would want to invite her to breakfast at Kunta Kinteh Hotel.

“I then requested to come with one of my senior staff, Amie Bojang-Sissoho, but the Director refused,” she asserted, adding that the director further told her that it was going to be a private discussion between them.

She indicated that she later went to meet her at the hotel by 9 o’clock with her driver.

“Upon our arrival, while sitting on the same table, the director later asked me to asked the driver to move away to another table, which the driver did,” she told the court.

She said that was the time they started discussing the D10 million project as a precondition for her to give them the 2010 funds.

She then requested that she must provide a receipt for 30,000 Euros.

“I told her the money was to advocate and fight against FGM in the Gambia, as well as to promote women’s rights in The Gambia,” Dr. Touray said.

“The director told me that if you do not agree, I would show you that your country is corrupt and I would use this 2010 funds to put you behind bars,” said the witness.

Still on her evidence, she told the court that, two days later, seven officers came to their office from different security units.

She added that she was told by them that she was wanted together with Amie Bojang for questioning.

“They then identified themselves. I asked for the reason for our questioning. The security officers informed me that it was an executive order that Gamcotrap must be reported and interrogated,” she told the court, noting that the security officers produced a letter  signed by one Ebrima O. Camara from the Office of the President, requesting for them to produce documents regarding the issue.

This, she went on, formed the basis of the first panel of investigation.

She narrated that while they are waiting for the investigation report, another panel came to them and told them that they were needed at the Office of the President.

“We boarded their vehicle to the Office of the President. As were going, we met with our board chairman, Sidia Jatta. We were taken to Holgam in Kanifing instead,” she told the court.

“Upon arrival, we were told that we are not under arrest, but they just wanted us to confirm certain things for them. They asked us if we knew YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD and we replied in the affirmative,” Dr Touray told the court.

She adduced that they were asked if they knew the director of YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD, and they again replied in the affirmative.

“We were asked to write a statement about the 2009 project with YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD, which we agreed to do,” she further stated.

Dr. Touray said she later gave statements, adducing that they were later brought to court and charged.

The case was then adjourned till 8 and 21 September 2011.