Sep 2, 2010, 11:57 AM
Principal Magistrate Buba Jawo of the Kanifing Magistrates' Court yesterday, 18th August 2008, convicted and sentenced Fatou Jaw Manneh, the US-based Gambian journalist, on a four-count charge - sedition, publication of seditious words, publication of false information and uttering seditious words.
On count one, the accused was sentenced to a fine of D80, 000, in default to serve one-year imprisonment with hard labour.
On count two, the accused was sentenced to a fine of D70, 000, in default to serve one-year imprisonment with hard labour.
Count three attracted sentence of a fine of D40, 000, in default to serve one-year imprisonment with hard labour and the accused was sentenced on count four to a fine of D60, 000, in default to serve one-year imprisonment with hard labour.
The fines totaled to D250, 000 and as default on each meant one-year imprisonment, the total prison-term duration in case of default in all is four years.
Delivering judgement, Magistrate Jawo cited some authorities to buttress the verdict. He told the court that if an article is not true, it could not be said that it has been published for public interest.
He went on to say that the words in the said article amounted to seditious publication and uttering seditious words.
He indicated that the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt on all the counts, adding that the burden of proof has not been discharged by cross-examination.
He intimated that he had no doubt in mind that the accused was responsible for the publication of the article in the Internet, which he said could cause alarm. He then said that the accused was given the chance to give evidence to the contrary but failed to benefit from it.
He finally ruled that the accused deliberately published the article while she was in the
In his mitigation, the defence counsel, Lawyer Jobarteh, told the court that he had had cause to be associated with the accused in the sense of a client-counsel relationship. He stated that he has found the accused to be exceptionally brilliant, hardworking and law-abiding. He further said that the accused came into the country in grief to commiserate on the death of one of her parents, which was indeed more than enough for her. He added that that loss itself is inconsolable for her.
He went on to state that the accused has two children who are being taken care of by her and that she is a banker and student, pursuing a graduate course to develop her status as a woman. He pointed out that the accused has lost almost two academic years as a result of the case, noting that she was a first-time offender who had never incurred the wrath of the law.
He therefore begged the court not to impose a custodial sentence on the accused and also urged the court to temper justice with mercy.
The state was represented by Merley Wood and Buba Bojang.