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Ex Police Chief & Co trial within trial opens

Aug 17, 2010, 12:52 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

As First Witness Testifies
The trial within a trial (voire dire) of ex-police chief Ensa Badjie opened last Friday at the high court in Banjul before Justice Emmanuel Amadi, with the testimony of the first prosecution witness.

Inspector Ballo K. Jobe, a police officer attached to the Fraud and Commercial Unit of the Gambia Police Force, told the court that he recognised the 1st accused person, who was the ex-IGP, and that they worked together.

"On the 7th March 2010, I was on duty at the NIA headquarters as part of the panel investigating the allegations against the ex-IGP Ensa Badjie," he added.

The panel, he said, comprised seven members seated at the NIA conference room, together with the 1st accused person.

The panel members, Inspector Jobe told the court, included Omar Cham of the NIA, Alhagie Morr Jobe of the NDEA, Inspector Modou Sillah, Inspector Salieu Gomez and Corporal Jawo Kieta, all of the Gambia Police Force, and himself.

According to the witness, he obtained a cautionary and three voluntary statements from the 1st accused, while in the conference room in the presence of an independent witness, one Babucarr Khan.

PW1 told the court that Jawo Kieta, a panel member, went outside to call the independent witness. He added that he informed the independent witness that he wanted to use him as an independent witness in obtaining a cautionary statement from the 1st accused, and that he also told the 1st accused of the presence of an independent witness.

"I read the cautionary wording to the 1st accused in English, and he said he understood it and signed, the independent witness signed and he (Jobe) too endorsed in the presence of the panel members," he told the court.

"I gave the form to the 1st accused to write his statement, but he asked me to write for him," PW1 stated.

He added that the 1st accused dictated to him in English, and he wrote, adding that he also read the said statement to him until the 1st accused was satisfied.

"The 1st accused signed, the independent witness also signed, and I endorsed it as the statement recorder. It was a 26-page statement," he added.

Asked by the prosecutor whether he would recognise the said statement, the witness replied in the positive, adding that the statement was recorded from the 1st accused.

The prosecutor then applied to tender the said statement as an exhibit, and the said statement was admitted and marked as an exhibit, without objection by defence counsel BS Touray.

The witness told the court that, as far as he knew, "the 1st accused was in his independent mind," and the statement obtained from the 1st accused was voluntarily made.

The prosecutor told the witness that the defence counsel had alleged that his client was tortured before his cautionary statement was obtained.

At this stage, the defence counsel intervened and said he only raised the issue of involuntariness.

The witness told the court that there was no offensive action used on the 1st accused, adding that as far as he knew the 1st accused was not maltreated, and that he made the statement voluntarily.

It was the 1st accused who voluntarily made his statement, the witness told the court.

Cross Examination by Defence Counsel BS Touray

Under cross-examination, the witness admitted that he was fasting, as a Muslim.

"It is correct that the 1st accused at the time of making his statement was under arrest," counsel said, and the witness replied, "Yes, my lord, he was under arrest."

The witness also admitted that the 1st accused was under detention, when counsel put it to him that his client was in detention.

The 1st accused was detained at the State Central Prison at Mile 2, Jobe added, when counsel asked him where the 1st accused was being detained.

The witness denied knowing who escorted the 1st accused from Mile 2 to the NIA office, when counsel quizzed him to tell the court who escorted his client on 7th March 2010 from Mile 2 to the NIA.

"As a police officer, do you know the offences that the accused is charged with are bailable?" asked the defence counsel, and the witness said, "Yes, they are bailable."

When it was further put to him by the counsel that the 1st accused was denied bail, the witness said the issue of bail never came up before the panel.

The witness said he did not know the date the 1st accused was arrested, when counsel asked whether he knows when the 1st accused was arrested. He was also not aware that the 1st accused was arrested on 2nd March 2010, pointing out that the panel was formed on 6th March 2010.

He further denied knowing the date when the 1st accused was received from Mile 2.

"I am putting it to you that the 1st accused was received from Mile 2 at 1 pm," counsel said, but the witness replied that he was not aware.

Asked by BS Touray at what time on 7th March he reported at the NIA, the witness said he reported at 10 am.

"It is correct that when you went to work you found the 1st accused at the NIA."  "No," replied Inspector Jobe.

Asked by counsel whether, as regards this investigation, the panel has any diary of action, the witness replied, "I cannot remember."

Defence counsel further asked the witness whether he meant that he did not record anything in the diary of action concerning the cautionary statement on 7th March 2010, and the witness said, "I personally did not."

"You have not seen any panel member recording any activities on this matter," counsel asked, and the witness said, "personally No."

"You want this court to believe that the panel was operating in a vacuum," asked the counsel, and the witness in reply said he was not personally aware.

Inspector Jobe testified that he enlisted in the Gambia Police Force on 15th December 1989.

It is not true that, in the morning of 7th March 2010, the 1st accused requested for him to allow to see the DG NIA, because he was sick, when defence counsel put the question to the witness.

"As of the time the 1st accused was making that request, blood was running out of the 1st accused nose," said the counsel, to which the witness responded, "It is not true."

"I am putting it to you that he was in such a pretty bad state that Alagie Morr Jobe and yourself cried and shed tears," added counsel, but the witness insisted that he never cried.

"And that time his hands were in handcuffs," counsel continued, "No," stated Inspector Jobe.

"That was why it occurred to two of you to write his statement, because he was in handcuffs," counsel went on, but the witness said, No," and that it was the 1st accused himself who told him to record his 26-page statement.

"I am putting it to you that it was you who removed the handcuffs from the 1st accused, after you finished recording." Jobe responded, "No," to counsel's assertion.

He also denied that he participated in the investigation of the last treason trial, when asked by the defence counsel.

Asked whether he was aware that the so-called independent witness has been used in the treason trial of the former CDS, the witness said, "No."

Inspector Jobe also denied that Babucarr Khan was an informant of the NIA, and is on their payroll, when defence counsel put this to him.

He said he was not aware that the 1st accused, when taken to Mile 2 Central Prison at 1am was severely beaten, when counsel in a series of questions put this to him.

"Are you aware that where he was taken was completely dark," asked the counsel, and in reply, the witness said he was not aware.

"I am putting it to you that in that darkness he was severely beaten by unknown persons." However, the witness insisted that he was not aware of that.

PW1 also denied counsel's assertion that Omar Cham, one of the panel members, led the people who beat the 1st accused.

"I am putting it to you that they were beating the 1st accused, while his hands were in handcuffs behind him." "I am not aware," replied witness Inspector Jobe.

"In the course of the beating, he was told to narrate the same thing in exhibit one," counsel added, but the witness responded that he was not aware.

"You are afraid to speak the truth, because of the threat from the NIA," the counsel said, but Jobe insisted that he was not under any threat.

Lawyer Touray during last Friday's sitting also applied for the court to make an order for the diary of action in respect of the panel of investigation to be brought before the court.

He said he wanted to cross-examine the witness on the said diary.

Deputy DPP M. Abdullihi, the prosecutor objected to the defence’s application on the grounds that the witness has said in court that he was not aware of any diary of action.

The deputy DPP said they are opposing the application, because there was no evidence in relation to the said dairy of action.

"The witness has clearly stated that he was not aware of any at the panel," he submitted.

BS Touray, in response said in any criminal case there must be a dairy of action kept by the police.

"I submit that the state is in custody of the said dairy of action," Touray told the court.

After hearing from both parties, Justice Amadi ruled against the defence counsel's application.

The case was then adjourned to 17th August 2010 for continuation of the hearing.

Ex-Inspector General of Police Ensa Badjie is currently on trial with two top military officers, Lt. Colonel Mam Matarr Secka and Major Kuluteh Manneh, under a 51-count indictment, including economic crime, sedition, obtaining money by false pretence, obtaining goods by false pretence, official corruption, and abuse of office, among others.