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GBA condemns Moses Richards conviction

Sep 22, 2011, 12:38 PM

The Gambia Bar Association (GBA) has reacted to the conviction of Lawyer Moses Richards and his sentencing to two years imprisonment by the Banjul Magistrates’ Court, by calling on the Government to free Moses Richards.

In a press release issued yesterday and signed by its President, Sheriff M Tambedou, the Bar condemned Richards’ conviction, which it “considers as an assault on the independence of the profession, as well as a malicious attack on the independence of the Bar.”

Below we reproduce the full text of the GBA press release verbatim:

This is a general broadcast from the Gambia Bar Association.

This Monday, the 19th day September 2011 at approximately 11 am at the Banjul Magistrates Court, Moses B. J Richards, a legal practitioner was convicted and sentenced to serve a term of 2 years with hard labour at Mile II Central State Prisons. The alleged crimes for which he was convicted were giving false information to a public servant contrary to section 114(a) of the Criminal Code and sedition contrary to Section 52(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.

The prosecution, conviction and sentencing was presided over and carried out by Magistrate T. A. Alagbe.

By this appalling act the Gambia Bar Association considers the whole Gambian legal profession and the rule of law to have been tried and convicted by extension.

The Gambia Bar Association unreservedly condemns the judgment delivered by Mr Alagbe and considers it to be an assault on the independence of the profession, as well as a malicious attack on the independence of the bar.

It is a universally accepted principle of all civilized societies that an advocate must be allowed to represent his or her client without fear or favour. In this instance, the charges against Mr Richards related to a letter he had written to the Sheriff of the High Court in the course of his duties as a lawyer, and while under the direct instructions of his client.

The letter made reference to the executive branch of the government. Mr Richard’s client appeared in court and swore under oath that he did indeed instruct Mr Richards to write the said letter. These are the ‘crimes’ for which Mr Richards is being punished.

Once again, The Gambia is portrayed as a nation where the mere mention of the Office of the President is risky. The Gambia Bar Association urges the executive branch of the government to take note, while its name is used to drive a wedge between the State and the people.

This judgment is a violation of all known principles that seek to protect and safeguard the integrity of the profession, as well as uphold the human rights and dignity of the citizen.

This judgment sets a dangerous precedent that will once more smear the international reputation of The Gambia, and yet again further weakens the already failing Gambian legal system.

The Gambia Bar Association calls on the Executive branch of Government to pay heed to the Legal Sector that has recently taken a severe bludgeoning by the forces of corruption and incompetence.

There is no doubt that such a judgment would not have been delivered in any other regional Commonwealth nation, especially Nigeria the native land of Mr Alagbe.

The Gambia Bar Association decries this latest battering of the constitution and the rights of all citizens. We call on the Government of the Gambia to step in and protect its citizens …

We call on the government of The Gambia to intervene in the public degradation of the constitution…. we call on the government of the Gambia to free Moses Richards!

The Gambia Bar Association will no longer stand by while these atrocities are carried out in our country against our people by those who would not dare act in such a manner in their country of origin.

The bar hereby puts all relevant authorities on notice that the Gambia Bar Association will actively seek the institution of disciplinary action against Mr Alagbe in Nigeria, and will do the same to all other foreign lawyers that seek to visit terror and humiliation on Gambians.

We once more openly invite the Executive to dialogue in the interest of all our brothers and sisters.