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Observer editor, Mbye Bittaye apply for bail

Mar 20, 2013, 10:23 AM | Article By: Isatou Senghore-Njie

Alhagie Jobe, deputy editor-in-chief of the Daily Observer newspaper, and Mbye Bittaye, yesterday applied for bail at the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate Hilary Abeke.

Alhagie Jobe was arraigned on a six-count charge of seditious intent, seditious publication, possession of seditious publication, giving false information to a public officer, forgery, and making document without authority.

Mbye Bittaye was charged with unlawful inquiries relating to possibility of forgery.

They denied the charges.

When the case was announced, the police prosecutor, Superintendent Joof, told the court that the accused persons were still at the remand wing of the prison, as a result of the misunderstanding between the police and the orderly.

He then apologised for the absence of the accused persons in court and applied for a stand down of the case.

However, Lawyer E. Jah, one of the defence counsel, objected to the stand down, arguing that it was quite evident that the prosecution did not intent to proceed with the case.

“They have not been provided with the written consent from the Attorney General’s Chambers, and they did not look like they have a witness,” counsel Jah submitted.

He further submitted that the stand down was not proper, and the prosecution should apply for an adjournment.

Superintendent Joof then rose again, and applied for an adjournment.

Defence counsel E. Jah also rose again and submitted that due to the delay by the prosecution to provide consent from the AG’s Chambers to proceed with the case, it was proper for the court to consider granting the 1st accused person bail.

He submitted that it was trite law that bail should be in favour of the accused person, unless the prosecution could show a cogent reason.

“It is therefore not for the defence to show why the accused should be granted bail,” he said.

The court ought to consider its discretion judicially and judiciously, he added.

The constitution which, according to him, makes it clear that the prosecution needs time to prepare and prosecute the case or if it appeared that the case could not be tried within a reasonable time, the court should consider granting bail to the accused person.

“In granting bail, the court should consider whether the accused person is at risk of absconding or interfering with the investigation. With regards to the 1st accused the investigation ought to have been completed, he has already been in custody since 8 February 2013,” counsel added.

The particulars of the offence show what the facts are in the six counts, that alleged that he published an article on either the 12 December 2012 or 19 December 2012, he continued, adding that those articles were not in the Daily Observer on those days.

“The accused had a good defence and had no reason to abscond the jurisdiction and he had not done anything to suggest that he wanted to abscond. The security services have his travel documents,” counsel further submitted.

He added that the accused is a responsible citizen who was employed by the said company, and he has been working there since 2001.

Keeping him in custody would seriously jeopardise his job, and cause him and his family unnecessary hardship, he said.

Counsel said the accused has landed property, and all his family are within the jurisdiction as respectable citizens who are willing to stand as sureties.

Also all these offences are bailable, and there is presumption of innocent in favour of the accused person, and it was for the prosecution to provide facts and not assumptions.

He then urged the court to grant the 1st accused bail.

Defence counsel S. Gaye, also submitted that the prosecution’s failure to produce the 2nd accused person in court and to proceed with the trial, was unconstitutional.

“The 2nd accused had been in detention since 5 March 2013, and in light of this reason, we are applying to the court to exercise it discretion judicially and judiciously to grant the 2nd accused bail,” counsel Gaye submitted.

“The 2nd accused is a responsible man who works in a reputable company, Africell Gambia Limited. He has been employed since 2007, and he is currently the senior event and sponsorship coordinator at the said company,” he added.

Counsel said the 2nd accused wished to be outside to resume his service and employment at the said company, as he is the breadwinner of his family, and has a five-year-old daughter and an 18-month son.

The continuous detention would cause hardship to his family and, if granted bail, he would not abscond the jurisdiction.

He also cited the criminal code and the constitution.

In response, Superintendent Joof objected to the defence counsel bail application, and restated that they were yet to acquire the consent to prosecute from the AG’s Chambers.

He said the accused persons being with their families or surrendering their travel documents could not make them not to abscond.

The case was then adjourned till 26 March 2013, for ruling.