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High Court to decide whether to release UDP 14 supporters on bail

Dec 6, 2016, 10:49 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

The Special Criminal Court presided over by Justice O. Ottaba will today decide whether or not to grant 14 UDP supporters bail, based on “the prevailing circumstances”, as brought forward by the defence team in an oral bail application made yesterday. 

The accused persons are Bakary Jammeh, Kaddy Samateh, Lele Bojang, Alakali Sanneh, Yaya Fatty, Muhammed Singhateh, Kemo Touray, Bakary Marong, Buba Mass, Alagie Saidykhan, Tombong Njie, Modou Sarr, Sheriff Suma, and Lamin Dampha.

They are being tried on a seven-count charge of conspiracy to commit felony, unlawful assembly, and riot, incitement of violence, interfering with vehicles, holding a procession without a permit and disobeying an order to disperse.

When the matter was called, B. Jaiteh appeared for the state, whilst the defendants were represented by A.N.D Bensouda, Hawa Sisay-Sabally, R.Y Mendy, Y. Senghore, C. Gaye and A. Njie.

State counsel B. Jaiteh informed the court that his witness was on his way coming, and asked for a 10 minutes stand down.

Senior Counsel Bensouda then informed the court that they would like to make an application, whilst anticipating the arrival of the witness.

She said they would like to make an oral application for bail on behalf of the accused persons base on “the prevailing circumstances.”

The trial judge then asked them to “come formally.”

However, counsel insisted and urged the court to consider the decision of the Gambia Court of Appeal, which just granted an oral bail application in the state versus Ousainou Darboe and 18 others, based on “the prevailing circumstances”. It allowed them to make an oral application given the fact that the court of appeal is superior to the high court, counsel pointed out.

The state counsel B. Jaiteh said granting or not granting an oral bail application lies on the discretion of the court.

The trial judge then said based on the fact that counsel said she would be brief, then he would grant the oral bail application.

Moving her application before the court, counsel Bensouda said: “We want to invoke your lordship’s powers to grant bail to 14 accused persons who are now in custody. I draw your lordships attention to its own bail ruling on Sira Wally Ndow-Njai and AG.

“I would also like to draw your lordships attention to the reasons why your lordship refused bail.  A primary reason why bail was refused is because it was refused previously for similar reasons in the case of Ousainou Darboe and 18 others, for the fact that their release will be a threat to national security.”

She added that there is a fundamental change in circumstances. “It was now a notorious fact known to your lordship that on 1 December 2016, a new president-elect was declared by IEC.” Counsel further pointed out that the present result is that the victorious is the candidate for coalition party, a leading member of which coalition is UDP.

“Your lordship is reminded that the accused persons by the charges before this court are alleged to be UDP members. I would like to draw your lordships attention to the order made by the Gambia Court of Appeal, in the case of Ousainou Darboe and 18 others in a consolidated appeal. This is an application from the decision of the high court in which the Gambia Court of Appeal granted the appellants, under similar circumstances, an oral application for bail.”

Counsel Bensouda added that the court of appeal said the issue was urgent; that the oral bail application was granted, and the ruling was done yesterday, although the reasons were reserved.

The Gambia Court of Appeal was persuaded by their submission to that court that the UDP was in the process of forming the government, as their candidate has been elected as part of the coalition.

“UDP is a crucial part in the transition to the new government,” she said.

“It is my submission that the reasons that were relied upon by this court in refusing bail had been fundamentally affected by the change. If they were a threat to national security at that time, now that they have been successful and have been victorious, it is their continued detention now that will cause a threat to peace and stability.

“They were the opposition, but now they are the government based on section 63 of the Constitution, which provides for the new president-elect to be sworn in.”

State counsel B. Jaiteh in response said the court was minded to grant the bail application.

He urged the court to do so on such terms that would secure the applicants to stand trial.