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Ex-NIA top brass appearance in court illegal, says defence

Mar 21, 2017, 10:01 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

Defence counsel in the case involving former top brass of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) yesterday said their clients’ appearance in court was illegal, since there was no proper information before the court.

Counsel made this remark before a crowded courtroom, during an application before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara urging her to invoke section 19, subsections 5, of the Constitution to strike out the case and discharge the accused persons.

The accused persons are Yankuba Badjie, Louis Gomez, Saikou Omar Jeng, Haruna Suso, Yusupha Jammeh, Lamin Lang Sanyang, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Babucarr Sallah.

They were arraigned before the Banjul Magistrates’ Court, charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and murder on 23 February 2017, before Magistrate Isatou Janneh-Njie.

When the case was called, M.B Abubacarr appeared for the state alongside A. Adeyimi, O. Danso and B. Jeng, while counsel C.E Mene, E.E Chima, P. Gomez, U. Achigbue. D. Dago, Moses Richards, and S. Kennedy appeared for the defendants.

State counsel M.B Abubacarr then informed the court that they have filed information before the court.

The trial judge then said the information was not before her, and the defence also said they were not served with the information.

State counsel Abubacarr told the court that they had received the case file from the police on Friday, at the close of work.

It was based on what they have from the case file that they filed a charge before the court. They need more time to engage the police on vital areas such as forensic examination, which requires bringing experts from outside the country.

He, therefore, asked for a long adjournment because, as it is now, the investigations are yet to be completed.

The trial judge said since the accused persons are in court they assumed that investigations are completed, and that they are ready for trial.

Defence counsel C.E Mene said according to the state they are still not ready with the investigations, and the information filed was not complete.

He said the documents such as exhibits, summary of evidence, witness statements, among others, are missing.

He added that until proper information is before the court and the accused take their plea, the court could not sit on the case.

“We want the court to exercise its powers under section 19, subsection 5, of the Constitution. Alternatively, I will want your lordship to exercise its discretion to strike out this matter for lack of diligent prosecution; then the prosecution will have time to bring experts all over the world to complete their investigations. Then when they are done, they can re-arraign them.” 

Counsel Chime associated himself with counsel Mene’s application, and said that the only alternative was for the court to strike out the case and discharge the accused persons.

He said the court was not a church or a mosque where congregation come to visit at any time.

“Their presence here is based on illegality, and no court can condone illegality. I am urging the court to let the accused persons go home,” he said.

Counsel Moses Richards said if the court was not minded to strike out the case, then the accused persons should be granted bail; and that they do not pose a flight risk because his client, Saikou Omar Jeng, has told him that he was willing to clear his name as soon as possible.

His client is sick and was denied his right to see a doctor, Richards continued, adding that it was illegal for the court to keep the accused persons incarcerated without bail, when there was nothing before the court.

“Criminal cases cannot be adjourned for two weeks, if the accused persons are not in custody; more so when they are in custody. They can be granted bail, because these are people who served their country for a very long time. There are people who are willing to be sureties and will make sure they are available for trial.”

Counsel Achigbue told the court that the persons standing before it are presumed innocent as provided for by the constitution.

He said this is a trial of speculation, and no court acts upon speculation.

“It does not matter even if the experts are coming from Jupiter; so we urged the court to take advantage of the law,” he said.

Counsel D. Dago urged the court to strike out the matter until such a time when the state was minded to proceed with the matter.

Counsel S. Kennedy also associated himself with their application.

However, the state counsel M.B Abubacarr objected to their application on the grounds that it lacks merit.

Defence counsel replied on points of law, saying the court was left with no option other than imposed section 19 subsections 5 of the constitution.

They said if the accused persons are not released, the law and interest of justice would not only cry, but shed tears.

In her ruling, the trial judge stated that bearing in mind that the accused persons are in custody she would have granted the application and discharged them.

However, the court has taken judicial notice of the fact that the information has been filed.

She added that the case is not illegal because it was transferred from the Banjul Magistrates’ Court to the High Court.

On the issue of striking out the case, the court was minded to refuse it based on the information before the court.

The state was given up to the next adjournment date to file a proper charge before the court.

The case continues on Monday 27 March 2017, at 12 pm.