Jul 8, 2011, 2:15 PM
Dawda Manneh, former National Assembly Member for Nianija Constituency, yesterday opened his defence at the Banjul Magistrates' Court before acting-Principal Magistrate Alagba.
Manneh was charged alongside with one Demba Baldeh with conspiracy and being in possession of prohibited drugs.
Testifying in a crowded courtroom, Manneh told the court that he was the parliamentarian for Nianija Constituency in the Central River Region (CRR), and that he knew the second accused, Demba Baldeh (alias Mandela) since 1997.
When asked by his defence counsel L.K. Mboge, whether he was aware that he is standing trial on two counts of criminal offences, Manneh in reply told the court that the prosecution alleged that on 13th September 2008 at Sololo village they were found in possession of 9 kg 260 grams of prohibited drugs, which he vehemently denied.
"On 13th September 2008 I was going to Sareh Bojo in the Upper River Region, when I found the second accused at Brusubi turn-table waiting for a vehicle to travel," he told the court.
He pointed out that the second accused then stopped him and begged him for a ride, while (the second accused) was in possession of a gallon of oil and a bag, among others.
"The second accused then asked me where I was going. I told him that I was going to Sareh Bojo and the second accused person also told me that he was going to Bansang village, and this was between 6 to 7 a.m.," Manneh told the court in his defence.
"I went through the North Bank Region, and I went up to Njawo village in the Central River Region and found one NIA officer standing with his friend at the police checkpoint," he narrated.
"This NIA officer asked to me to give him a ride. I picked him together with his friend up to Bansang Police Station. I did not pick anybody until Janjanbureh where I picked a teacher and one Lamin Komma and I dropped them at Sankule Kunda," he added.
"Upon reaching a police checkpoint at Sololo, the officer on the highway asked me to identify myself, which I did," he continued, adding that the two gentlemen by the names Pa Omar Badjie and Musa Krubally also asked me to identify myself, and asked where I am going to. I told them that I am going to Sareh Bojo.
He pointed out that the officers allowed him to go, but after some distance away one of the officers asked me to stop and reverse the vehicle.
"Pa Omar Badjie and Musa Krubally were arguing that they received information that I carried somebody in my car with cannabis. I told them that I might not know, because I carried about five people on my way coming, and they said they wanted to search my vehicle," he told the court.
"I allowed them, and during the course of the search a bag was found containing cannabis. The officers then asked me if I have any knowledge about the said bag, and I told them, "No".
According to the accused, the second accused person was also asked about his knowledge of the bag and he confirmed ownership of the said bag. Then the officers asked me to transport the said bag to Bansang Police Station.
He added that, at the police station, the officers told him that they cannot allow him to go because the second accused had alleged that he knew something about the cannabis, because it was smelling in the vehicle.
"One NDEA officer by the name Fatty told me that the parliamentarians were the people responsible for bad laws in the country, so if a parliamentarian is suspected to be part of such it would be difficult for us," he told the court.
He said the other officers told the second accused that if you allowed the first accused to leave you here, you will spend all the rest of your life in jail.
The case was at that juncture adjourned till 4 April 2011 for continuation.