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Revelations in ex-Chief Justice Wowo and Jobarteh trial

Sep 2, 2013, 10:05 AM | Article By: Malamin L.M. Conteh

(Friday, 30 August 2013, Issue)

There was starling testimony on Thursday in the trial involving former Chief Justice Joseph Wowo and former Attorney General and Minister of Justice Lamin A.M.S Jobarteh, at the Special Criminal Court in Banjul before Justice Emmanuel Nkea.

Justice Wowo and Lamin A.M.S. Jobarteh were arraigned on a thirteen-count indictment which include abuse of office, conspiracy to defeat Justiceand interference with witnesses, offences relating to Judicial proceeding, to giving false informing to a public officer, which both denied.

Revelations were contained in the testimony of the second prosecution witness, Alieu Barry, made during yesterday’s court proceedings.

In his testimony, Alieu Barry, told the court that he is a nurse by profession; he lives in Bijilo, and knew both the accused persons.

He said he knew them at a meeting held at the residence of the 2nd accused person, Jobarteh, who was then Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

Barry recalled that on 26 November 2012, he received a telephone call from lawyer Christopher Mene, that he was invited to a meeting that was to be held at the house of the former Justice Minister Jobarteh in Old Yundum.

He said Mene further told him that the meeting was in relation to the issue of compensation of the land for his former client.

“I met with Lawyer Mene at the Kanifing Police Station at 9.30pm at night, and went to the petrol station in Kotu where we found a tinted vehicle parked; and we later proceeded to the residence of Jobarteh,” Barry told the court.

Upon arrival at the residence of Jobarteh, he went on, they were welcomed by Jobarteh himself in his house, and he found Justice Wowo sitting.

“I was with Lawyer Christopher Mene and Mr Chucka. Wowo introduced himself as Mr Wowo, and said he is there to chair the meeting for negotiation for compensation,” he added.

Barry told the court that Wowo said it was because of Justice Minister Jobarteh that he was there, and that he explained to Mr Andrew that he had received his file at the Court of Appeal, but they had no case, and the court would not allow it; that he would lose the case.

He said Wowo also made it clear that he knew that he should not have been there, but it was because of Jobarteh that he was there.

Justice Wowo also made it clear that the case had reached the Court of Appeal, and he was the President of the Gambia Court of Appeal, as well as the Acting-Chief Justice, Barry told the court.

“I told him I cannot make any decision, because I was told by my partner that any offer I have to relay it to him. Jobarteh said this time he would use his hammer. I said to Wowo that it would be very easy to relay my message to my partner, but Wowo insisted that I had to pay D500,000 and he said he knew the reason why he was saying so,” Barry said in a marathon testimony.

“We did not come to agreement, and Mene said he would send everything to my partner; but Jobarteh kept saying that I am a Fulaman, but if I did not agree, he knew what to do,” Barry further stated.

“I had recorded the discussion of the meeting, because I was scared. I used my mobile phone to record it, because it was late before entering the house of the ex-Justice Minister. I did not know what might happen. I set my mobile phone on record, and the following day I downloaded it on my computer, on my mobile and on the flash drive. I saved it until 2nd February 2013,” he said.

“I was at Solomon’s Beach Bar with my partner. I received a telephone call from the G4 Security guard that one Mr Sowe, who was picked up from the property, came to the land and said he would enter the property, which led to a commotion. He said Mr Sowe broke the padlock and changed it, and told them that the Justice Minister had asked them to return to the property,” said Alieu Barry.

“I called Christopher Mene, and informed him. He told me to take the copy of my judgment to the Brikama court, and I further reported the matter to the police station,” he testified.

“The security guard showed me the padlock that was changed. As I was about to approach my vehicle with the security guard, I spotted two officers with the said Mr Sowe. Jobarteh looked at me and said to me ‘Mr Barry I warned you, and I heard that you reported me’, ” Barry stated.

“Jobarteh said to my partner, ‘I will show you that you have no property here’, and ordered the officers to effect arrest on me and my partner, and lock us behind bars, and told the security guard to vacate the property,” he went on.

He said Jobarteh further ordered the officers that, upon arrival, they should confiscate our phones from us, and we should not talk with anybody.

“When I started my car with the officers on board, before arriving at the station, I deleted the recording because I was scared at the station they might search my phone; because Jobarteh had told them to confiscate my phone,” Barry continued.

“Upon arrival at the Brusubi Police Station,” he added, “we were placed behind the counter and when Jobarteh arrived he told the police to lock us and not to allow us to have access to a lawyer, or to speak to anybody.”

Barry further said he asked the police why they were arrested, and that they were kept in the police cell for four days before taking them to the Major Crime Unit, and later to Brusubi Police Station.

He added that they were first taken to the GRA, where they told them that they had to pay tax on compensation based on the judgment, and at the Brusubi Police Station they were told by OC Sawaneh that they had to be bailed because that was the instruction he got.

“We were bailed by my brother in the sum of D10,000 each, and the following morning we reported to the station because our passports were seized. We were detained again until the following day and my partner was to be bailed by a compound document,” he said.

“We were later arraigned before Justice M. Abdoulah at the High Court in Banjul. I handed the copy of the recording to the NIA. The copy of the CD of the meeting, the flash drive, and the CD was the recording of the meeting held at Jobarteh’s residence. I gave the CD to my lawyer and the NIA.

“The NIA transcribed the recording, and I was called to go through it; whether that was the content of the CD,” he added.

It was shown to him by the state counsel and he identified it, and the prosecution applied for the CD to be played in court. There was an objection by the defence, but this was overruled.

The case was then adjourned till 2 September 2013, to enable the state to list the likely exhibits and supply the transcribed copy to the defence.