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In Jaw Manneh's Case, Names of State Witnesses to Be Concealed

Apr 22, 2008, 6:42 AM | Article By: By Soury Camara

The names of prosecution witnesses in the ongoing trial of a US-based Gambian journalist, Fatou Jaw Manneh, will continue to be concealed now that an application to that effect was upheld.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Emmanuel Fagbenle, yesterday made an application in the Kanifing Magistrates' Court for the court to maintain an earlier agreement that names of prosecution witnesses should be hidden from the greater public. Now that the Kanifing Magistrates' Court, chaired by Principal Magistrate Buba Jawo, had granted DPP Fagbenle's application, only family members of the beleaguered journalist and two reporters will attend the trial proceedings.

Earlier, the counsel for journalist Manneh, Lamin Jobarteh, had objected to the granting of DDP's application, passionately arguing that courts are open platforms, making them open to the general public. However, his objection was overruled.   

As per the latest court ruling, the 3rd prosecution witness gave his testimony with his name undisclosed.

Casting his mind back to March of 2007, the latest prosecution witness recounted that he was on this particular date asked to conduct an investigation pertaining to a certain lady who was supposed to fly into the country on 28 March 2007 from the US. The lady, recalled the witness, was alleged to have written an article which was critical of Mr. Jammeh and his administration.

According to the witness, on arrival at the Banjul International Airport, Ms. Manneh got arrested by the operatives of the NIA and whisked away to NIA Headquarters in Banjul.

When quizzed by counsel Jobarteh as to where his client's passport was demanded, the witness responded that the passport was demanded in a car which, however, ran contrary to his earlier statement in his testimony that the passport was demanded at the NIA office. The witness adduced that when asked about her name, the suspect replied that her name was Fatou Jaw Manneh but it was Fatou M. Darboe on the passport. Ms. Manneh, posited the witness, had later elucidated that Darboe was just her marital surname and that she was a banker in the U.S. 

Still testifying, the prosecution witness explained that Fatou Manneh had confessed to him that she was writing articles and when he requested for a copy, the accused responded that she could only do so if she had access to her e-mail box. 'A search, through Google, led to the discovery of one articleon a blank page. This was later printed from the printer. The accused said the article was her writing. A copy of the said article was given to investigators, compiling the case file. It was later sent to the Attorney General's Chambers for legal advice,' adds the witness. 

Rounding up his testimony, the witness stated that 'complaints' about the accused person's article was generated from the general public as he was informed by his office. He further pointed out that he was not present at the time of Ms. Manneh's arrest.

While answering to questions posed to him by the defense counsel, the claim of the prosecution witness being computer literate was tested as he failed to answer some basic questions about computer and computer accessories.

Hearing continues on 24April 2008.