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Ex-Justice Minister Jobarteh, Pa Harry Jammeh granted bail

Jun 26, 2013, 11:06 AM

Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice Lamin AMS Jobarteh, and former Solicitor General and Legal Secretary Pa Harry Jammeh, were yesterday granted court bail by the Banjul Magistrates’ Court, presided over by acting-Principal Magistrate Dawda Jallow.

They were arraigned under a 10-count charge which included conspiracy to defeat justice, abuse of office, official corruption, destroying evidence, and neglect of official duty, charges they had since denied.

When the case was called in the court, the prosecuting officer, police superintendent Sainey Joof, told the court that the matter was still under investigation, and that there was a new issue which was raised, and so they were opposing bail for the accused persons.

He added that the accused persons were a flight risk, and they could flee from the jurisdiction.

In response, defence counsel Lamin Camara said the excuse or the reason given to the court by the prosecution was irrelevant, and that no reasonable tribunal would accept it.

“Your worship, since the office of the Inspector General of Police preferred charges against the accused persons, it meant the investigation was over and there is a substantial charge before the court,” counsel added.

The accused persons have a right to bail, as well as getting a fair hearing, and a right to a speedy trial, counsel said.

Lawyer Camara further told that the court that the state must not just drag people to court, and then have a chance to put them in custody.

The accused persons have been in state custody for a month, which was totally against their constitutional rights.

The prosecution should know that the accused persons could not be in custody like that, without court bail or the case proceeding, Lawyer Camara went on.

Counsel cited section 24 of the constitution of The Gambia, and said the accused persons have enough sureties to meet any bail condition.

Counsel responded to the prosecution’s claim that the accused persons could flee from the jurisdiction.

“I submit that the accused persons’ travel documents are with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA); so how can they travel?”

Delivering the ruling, the trial magistrate said the two accused persons were arraigned before the court on 19 June 2013, charged with various offences, which they both denied.

He said, on their behalf, counsel made an application for bail which was objected to by the prosecution; and the court was persuaded by the prosecution to refuse bail.

The matter was adjourned for hearing, but the prosecution applied for an adjournment and the reasons given were that the matter was still under investigations and that new issues also arose, he said.

Defence counsels led by Lamin S. Camara, the magistrate went on, made a fresh bail application, and again the prosecution objected.

“The submissions made by counsel on behalf of the applicants are good and persuasive, but I will attempt to see if the prosecution has raised any point in their objection that could warrant a denial of bail in this matter,” said the magistrate.

“As regards the prosecution’s argument that new issues have arisen, with all due respect this court is not abreast with those issues, and no court can make a decision based on such speculation,” he said.

Regarding the submission that the applicants are a flight risk, the magistrate said the submission was not supported by any convincing proof.

The only thing the court of law could rely on or be convinced about one way or the other, was to make credible evidence available to it, he stated.

Magistrate Jallow further stated that the burden was always on the prosecution to show a strong case against granting bail, and in the absence of a strong case, the applicants should be granted bail, although in doing so, the court may impose conditions that would ensure the applicant’s attendance at the trial.

“This is a court of justice, and as the prosecutor rightly said the court should decide in favour of justice. However, I wish to state that justice is double-sided and so long as a decision is informed by accepted reasoning and in accordance with law, then irrespective of which way it goes, justice would have been served, ’’ he declared.

“I have sworn to deliver justice to all and sundry without fear or favour, and only this I shall do,” Magistrate Jallow said.

“It is therefore my candid view that the constitutional provisions regarding presumption of innocence, and the prima facie right to bail where trial cannot be held within a reasonable time must be upheld in this matter,” he said.

“I am satisfied that this is a case where  bail can be granted at this stage,  but subject to such conditions as will ensure that the applicant attends trial in the future.

“I therefore grant bail to the applicants subject to the following conditions:

“The applicants are to reside within Greater Banjul Area until trial and that the applicants must not go outside of the boundaries of the Greater Banjul Area without an order of the court.

“That the applicants must not communicate in any manner whether directly or indirectly, with any of the potential prosecution witnesses.

“The applicants must report to Banjul Police Station between 8 am and 4 pm each Monday and Friday every week.

“The applicants must stay indoors at their respective residences at night between 7pm to 6 am”.

The court added that the applicants shall provide two Gambian sureties each.

The sureties must enter into a recognisance of D500, 000 for each applicant, depose to an affidavit of means and deposit one title deed on behalf of each applicant and a valid national identity card.

In the event of failure to comply with any of these conditions, the court said, all police officers are hereby authorised to re-arrest the applicants and take them into custody forthwith, and keep them there until trial or further order of the court.

The case was adjourned to 2 July 2013, for hearing.