Sep 12, 2008, 6:55 AM
The Executive Director of Gamcotrap, Dr Isatou Touray, and Amie Bojang-Sissoho, programme co-coordinator of the same organization, yesterday walked out of court as free women after the Banjul Magistrates’ Court acquitted and discharged them.
The two women rights activists were arraigned at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court, charged with theft, which they denied.
It was alleged that some time in 2009, in Banjul and diverse places in The Gambia, they jointly stole 30,000 Euros being money provided by the YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD of Spain to Gamcotrap.
The trial lasted two years and captured public attention from the onset.
The case saw the testimonies of women circumcisers, officers from the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA), as well as the Executive Director of Yolocamba Solidaridad, Begona Ballestros Sanchez based in the Kingdom of Spain, among others.
Delivering his judgment, Principal Magistrate Alagbe told the court that the accused persons were properly arraigned before the court on 12 October 2010, charged with the offence of stealing, which they denied.
Challenged by the plea of the accused persons, the prosecution called eight witnesses in support of their case, including the Director of Yolocambia Solidridad and some senior members of the women circumcisers based in the Central River and Upper River regions.
Magistrate Alagbe pointed out that the accused persons also gave sworn evidence, and called six witnesses in support of their case, including their regional community-based facilitators, as well as the Gamcotrap youth co-coordinator, Omar Dibba.
He added that PW3, 4, 5 and 6 were all members of the women circumcisers based in different places, and told the court that they had received the sum of D2,000, and that 10 people who accompanied them to attend the dropping of the knife celebration also received something.
The magistrate stated that PW8, the Executive Director of Yolocamba, Begona Ballestros Sanchez, told the court that her organization had signed a contractual agreement with Gamcotrap to carry out a micro-credit scheme, which the accused persons should have carried out, but they failed and they had spent the money on a different project.
“The court believed that the Director of Yolocamba Soliridad had acted very unprofessionally as a director,” Magistrate Alagbe said in his judgment.
DW1, Dr. Isatou Touray, on the other had told the court that she is the Executive Director of Gamcotrap and, in 2009, her organization submitted a project proposal regarding FGM.
He said Dr. Touray further told the court that her organization’s stand was very clear since the onset that they were not a micro-credit institution, so they could not carry out any micro-credit project, but they later agreed to implement the project on FGM.
He added that Dr. Touray also told the court that she was not aware of the email correspondence between Omar Dibba and Yolocamba Solidaridad.
Further delivering the judgment, the trial magistrate stated that DW2, Amie Bojang Sissoho, also told the court that she is the programme coordinator of Gamcotrap, and was involved in the entire project Gamcotrap was implementing, and that they had spent the money according to the contractual agreement between the two institutions.
He added that the prosecuting officer, Superintend Joof, indicated to the court that the accused persons had unlawfully spent the 30,000 Euros in a way which was not in line with the project proposal.
The defence counsel Amie A. Bensounda told the court that the prosecution had failed woefully to tender any documents to show that the accused persons had wrongly spent the said money, the magistrate stated.
He pointed out that DW6, Omar Dibba, Gamcotrap’s youth coordinator was just a mere employee of the institution, so he could not enter into any contractual agreement with any institution in the absence of the Executive Director, who in turn told the court that she was not aware of any email correspondence between her organization and Yolocamba regarding a micro-credit scheme.
He added that the court was in totally agreement with the defence counsel that the prosecution had failed woefully to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt.
“Therefore, no reasonable tribunal will convict the accused persons if the evidence is not sufficient to convict them,” he stated.
He pointed out that Jon Lázaros Fernández, a member of the technical staff of Yolocamba Solidaridad, was not called by the prosecution to give evidence in order to clear the doubts, and he was a material witness to the case.
The prosecution had failed woefully, and Amie Bojang-Sissoho and Dr. Isatou Touray, are hereby acquitted and discharged, the magistrate declared.