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Former Information Minister’s treason trial opens

Nov 2, 2011, 12:53 PM | Article By: Sainey MK Marenah

The trial on charges of treason and sedition involving former minister of Information, Dr Amadou Janneh, and three others commenced yesterday at the high court in Banjul with the testimonies of two prosecution witnesses.

Dr Amadou Scattered Janneh was accused of distributing T-shirts bearing the words: “Coalition for Change-The Gambia, End to Dictatorship Now” with intent to usurp the executive powers of the state in May 2011, at

Kairaba Avenue
and diverse places in The Gambia.

Testifying as the first prosecution witness, Jah Joof, brother to the wife of Dr Janneh, who is also the assistant manager at Classic Lady Fashion along

Garba Jahumpa Road
in Bakau, told the court, among other things, how Dr. Janneh gave him and his co workers a T-shirt.

According to PW1, Classic Lady is owned by Fatou Kuyateh, the wife of Dr. Janneh, adding that he knew and recognized Janneh as husband to his boss.

Joof testified that in May of this year, he and other co-workers at Classic lady Fashion were given a T-shirt.

Then on 16 June 2011, members of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) came to the shop and found him there with other workers.

“I called one Basiru to inform him that PIU officers were at the shop. We called all members of staff who were not present at the time to come, because they were all wanted by the officers, and they were later taken away, but I was left behind,” he testified.

The police later returned to the shop, and asked whether it was the 1st accused person (Dr. Janneh) who gave him the said T-shirt, and that he responded in the affirmative.

The officers, he added, asked for the T-shirt, and that he surrendered two T-shirts to them.

Asked by the Director of Public Prosecution whether he would recognize the said T-shirt, he answered in the affirmative.

The DPP then applied to tender it for Identification (ID) purposes, and it was marked and admitted without any objection from the defence counsel, L.S Camara.

Under cross-examination, the witness admitted that he is illiterate in the English language, when counsel asked whether he is educated.

He said he never wore the T-shirt since it was given to him by Dr. Janneh, adding that he did not know what was written on the said T-shirt.

“Did you give a statement to the police?” counsel asked. “Yes, I gave a statement,” replied the witness.

He said he gave only one statement to the police, and then counsel asked him to take a look at the said statement.

Counsel then applied to tender it as defence exhibit, but the DPP strongly objected to the admissibility of the document, making reference to the Evidence Act 1994.

He urged the court to reject the statement.

Defence counsel Camara responded to the DPP’s submission, and in doing so also cited the Evidence Act.

The presiding judge, Justice Nkea, subsequently ruled in favour of the defence, and admitted the statement as a defence exhibit.

Next to mount the witness box for the prosecution was one Sulayman Gaye, a police officer attached to the Criminal Investigation Department, who told the court about their investigations, which led to the arrest of Dr. Janneh and other persons.

He said that in May 2011, while walking along

Kairaba Avenue
heading towards Latrikunda School, he saw a car driving at high speed throwing sealed plastic bags, which he picked up and opened.

Gaye said he found in the plastic bag T-shirts with printed words on both the front and back.

He said he then informed the authorities, and a panel of investigators was set up comprising the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and PIU officers.

The panel consisted of five members, and during the investigations the trademark of the T-shirt was obtained, and one Yahya Jallow was identified at the Albert Market in Banjul as the dealer in the type of T-shirts.

Gaye said Mr. Jallow accompanied them to a Sirtex Company located near the Banjul Ferry Terminal, where the investigators got the list of customers who bought the T-shirts.

He added that the manager of the company was invited to provide the names of those who printed the type of T-shirts.

He said Michael Ucheh Thomas, one of the accused persons, was also interviewed by the panel and a sample of the said T-shirt shown to him, which he admitted printing, adding that the materials used in the printing process were also recovered from Michael.

He said the panel also asked Micheal who contracted him to do the printing, and he said it was one Modou Keita and Ebrima Jallow, both accused person, with the Star Printing service at Serrekunda, which led to their arrest.

Gaye said Jallow and Keita were also interviewed by the panel during which Dr. Janneh’s name surfaced.

He told the court that Dr Janneh confessed to the panel to contracting Jallow and Keita to print the T-shirts at a cost of D8, 000.

The witness said Dr. Janneh was escorted to his office at Commit company in Kotu, which was searched leading to the discovery of a T-shirt, a flash drive and a computer hard drive. Further searches were conducted at his residence at Paradise Estate, where another two T-shirts were found, he continued.

The DPP applied to tender the T-shirts from the office and residence, as well as the ones obtained at

Kairaba Avenue
as exhibits, which were marked as exhibits without any objection from the defence lawyer. The flash drive and computer hard drive were also admitted by the court.

The witness in open court read the wording on the front of the T-shirts, as follows: “Coalition for Change-The Gambia, End to Dictatorship.” At the back of the T-shirts was printed: “Freedom!”

He added that the car of Dr. Janneh was impounded and is currently parked at the PIU headquarters.

The witness told the court that their investigations revealed that the purpose of the T-shirts was to instigate or incite the people of The Gambia to topple the APRC government.

Hearing of the case continues today.

It would be recalled that Dr Janneh, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K. Jallow and Famara Demba were accused, among others, of conspiring among themselves on 26th May 2011 at diverse places in The Gambia, to print and distribute 100 T-shirts which carried a seditious statement: “Coalition for Change-The Gambia: End Dictatorship Now.”

Dr. Janneh also faces a two-count charge of seditious acts alongside Michael C. Ucheh Thomas, Modou Keita and Ebrima Jallow, all of whom were arraigned at the high court in Banjul, and have denied the charges.

State prosecutors accused Dr. Janneh on count one of treason, stating that he conspired with Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K. Jallow, Famara Demba, and others at large, on 26th May 2011 in diverse places in The Gambia, to overthrow the Gambia government.

Dr Janneh, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K. Jallow, and Famara Demba were also accused of preparing to overthrow the government by unlawful means, and on count three, prosecutors further charged Dr. Janneh, Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow, and Micheal C. Ucheh Thomas with seditious acts.

Prosecutors said the four accused persons and others at large conspired to print and distribute 100 T-shirts which carried seditious statements: “Coalition for Change - The Gambia: End Dictatorship Now.”

Dr. Janneh and his co-accused were also charged with intent to cause or bring into hatred, contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the President or the Government of The Gambia, by printing and distributing the 100 T-shirts.

Dr. Janneh and his co-accused were first arraigned at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court charged with treason, conspiracy and sedition, but the matter was later transferred to the high court, which has jurisdiction to hear such a case.

Following their initial appearance at the high court, the prosecution, on two occasions, did not file substantial charges against the accused persons, and only subsequently did so.

Janneh, a former political science lecturer in the US, was at one time the political and economic affairs officer at the US Embassy in Banjul.

He was arrested in June 2011, and subsequently placed in remand custody at the maximum security State Central Prison Mile 2. He has since been moved to the more relaxed Old Jeshwang Prison.