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Observer editor denied bail again as trial opens

May 28, 2013, 9:31 AM | Article By: Malamin L.M. Conteh

The trial involving the deputy editor-in-chief of the Daily Observer Newspaper opened yesterday at the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

This followed the denial of bail yet again to Alagie Jobe, who alongside one Mbye Bittaye, were arraigned before Justice Emmanuel Nkea of the said court.

Jobe’s lawyer E. Jah filed bail application before Justice Nkea.

He was arraigned on a five-count charge of making an act with seditious intention, seditious publication, and possession of seditious publication, giving false information to public servant, and reckless and negligent, while Mbye Bittaye was arraigned on a single count of making preparation to do act with seditious intention.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Nkea read the submission of both sides, and stated that the applicant on two occasions was denied bail by the High Court, with the fear that if granted bail he would flee the country.

He attested to the fact that if the accused, Alhagie Jobe, was granted bail, he would likely jump bail.

“I will not grant the accused person bail,” he said, stating that in the interest of justice, the matter would be heard twice a week.

Testimony of prosecution witness one (PW1)

The first prosecution witness identified himself as Jawor Keita, a police officer attached to the major crime unit, at police headquarters in Banjul.

He told the court that he came to know the 1st accused person, Alhagie Jobe, at the NIA during the panel of investigation on 9 February 2013, where he was informed by his boss to report to the NIA.

“Upon my arrival at the NIA, I found my colleagues from the NDEA, Police and NIA, and the 1st accused was brought before the panel and was asked to give an account of why he was at the NIA,” he said.

The 1st accused, Alhagie Jobe, told the panel that he was arrested by the NIA officers at Tallinding Primary School, while he was with one Baturu Ceesay on board the vehicle with registration number Observer 2 Mercedes Benz, PW1 testified.

The 1st accused said that he was supposed to hand over a document to someone at Tallinding Primary School, and all of a sudden he saw a pick up with men coming towards him and he started to run away with his vehicle, but accidently he smash a wall and upon that he was arrested, and taken to the NIA, he further testified.

The witness added that they went to the scene and managed to remove the vehicle, but before doing so some photos were taken, and later the team proceeded to the house of the 1st accused in Bundung, where a thorough search was conducted, but nothing illegal was found there.

Officer Keita added that they went back to the NIA office with the purported Daily Observer newspaper, and the panel confronted the 1st accused with the purported Daily Observer newspaper which he published.

“I then called Jobe, the 1st accused and invited an independent witness in the name of Mustapha. I obtained a cautionary statement which the 1st accused signed and the independent witness also signed,” said PW1.

He pointed out that Jobe later led the team of investigators to the Daily Observer newspaper in Bakau (sic) where a search was conducted and his personal laptop was involved and it was opened by himself and they the investigators found a story “Major Lamin Touray on the run” and together with the story photos of Major Lamin Touray.

“We recovered the story and the photos and printed them out at the NIA,” he said, adding that they later wrote to the Gambia armed forces to tell the panel whether Major Lamin Touray was once enlisted in the armed forces, but GAF responded that they have never enlisted a Major Lamin Touray.

Still testifying, Officer Keita further added that the panel asked Jobe how he came to know Major Lamin Touray, and he responded that he was introduced to Major Lamin Touray by one Njaga Jallow, who is currently residing in the US.

The 1st accused said he started to communicate with Major Lamin Touray through email and his Qcell line, as a result of which they went to Qcell to request for the printout of the international calls, he adduced.

“Upon receiving that, we saw the communication between the 1st accused and Major Lamin Touray,” he stated, adding that on 5 March 2013, he obtained a voluntary statement from the 1st accused in the presence of an independent witness.

Charges were leveled against the 1st accused which he accepted, he added.

At that juncture, the state counsel applied to tender the story together with the pictures in evidence as exhibits.

This was objected to by the defence counsel, E Jah, on the grounds that the said documents were not relevant, as they were mere printouts.

He said no evidence was laid to indicate as to who prepared the said documents, and that the documents bore the name of one Ousainou Dumbuya, which was unknown to them.

In response, state counsel A.M. Yusuf argued that the 1st accused was the one who opened his own laptop for the investigators, and the materials in question were found in the said laptop.

The case continues today for ruling.