May 29, 2008, 5:18 AM
The state has announced it is taking over the trial of 17 suspected rebels from Casamance from the police prosecutors, a case brought before the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on 13th October 2010.
The Director of Special Litigation at the Attorney General's Chambers, Barrister D.O. Kulo, on Friday told presiding Magistrate Emmanuel Nkea: "We are applying for the charges against the accused persons to be withdrawn, and the case be struck out. We have filed a new indictment at the Special Criminal Court of the High Court in Banjul before Justice Ikpala."
Magistrate Nkea subsequently granted his application, and struck out the charges against the accused persons.
The accused persons, who are yet to have legal representation, were not present during Friday's court sitting.
The 17 accused persons, reported to be armed and from the southern Senegalese region of Casamance, were previously arraigned at the Banjul Magistrates' Court on 13th October 2010 and charged with one count of being in possession of an assortment of arms of war and ammunitions without authority.
The indictment that accompanied the accused persons to court read:
"Yusupha Ceesay and 16 others sometime in October 2010 at Bulock and Bajana villages in the West Coast Region were found in possession of an assortment of arms of war and ammunitions without authority."
The accused persons include Yusupha Ceesay and Modou Lamin Badjie who both pleaded guilty to the charge, during their first apperance at the lower court, while Saku Jammeh, Zackaria Jatta, Tijan Camara, Mafuji Jarju, Abdoulie Sonko, Hatab Jatta, Abdou Badjie, Ebrima Jarju, Sang Sambou, Basiru Jammeh, Seedy Sanyang, Tumani Manga, Alasana Jarju and Aziz Kujabi all denied the charge.
The accused persons are expected to appear at the special criminal court on 8th November 2010 to answer to a two-count indictment for unlawful possession of firearms in the Republic of the Gambia, and for illegal entry into the Gambia contrary to the country’s Immigration Act.
It would be recalled that during the accused persons previous arraignment at the Banjul Magistrates' Court, the police prosecutor told the court that the accused persons are gunmen believed to be members of rebel factions in the southern Senegalese region of Casamance and, therefore, granting them bail would increase fear in the society.
He strongly opposed bail for the accused persons, and urged the court to remand them in custody at the state central prison at Mile 2 pending the outcome of the case.
The presiding Magistrate Nkea granted the prosecution’s application, and subsequently remanded in custody all the accused persons.