Kebba Jeffang reporting from Mansakonko High Court
Mansakonko High Court yesterday set the Judgment in the criminal trial involving 11 Westfield protestors for 21st July, 2016. A total of 8 witnesses were brought by the prosecution before it closed its case yesterday, Thursday, June 23, 2016 before Justice Simone Abi of Mansakonko High Court in the Lower River Region.The accused persons who preferred to remain mute in the ongoing trial have maintained their constitutional right to remain silent by refusing to enter their defence resulting to the closure of the case.
However, the first accused person Lamin Sonko seized the opportunity to inform the court that the prison authorities did not comply with the court’s directive at the previous proceeding that they should be kept at Mile 2 Prison, rather they were kept at Janjangbureh Prison.
Appearing for the state were A.M Yusuf and Abdourahman Bah whilst the accused persons had no legal representation.
Earlier in the case, testifying as the eighth prosecution witness (PW7), Bakary Drammeh told the court that he is a police officer with the rank of Sub Inspector of the Gambia Police Force. He said he recognized some accused persons in the dock in the persons of Alagi Fatty and Kafu Bayo. He said he came to know the two when he was instructed by his boss as he was on duty at the fraud squad at the police headquarters in Banjul to obtain their statements at Mile 2
prisons on the 19 April, 2016.
“I obtained the statements of Alagi Fatty after explaining myself to him as a police officer and I told him I was there to obtain his cautionary statement. I recorded the statement in English language and read it to him in Mandinka language until he understood. I then recorded his voluntary statement as well on the same day. He thumb printed the statements and I wrote my name and signed it,” said the witness.
He said on the 21st April, 2016, he was again instructed to go to the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to obtain the cautionary and voluntary statements of Kafu Bayo. He said after introducing himself to him, he obtained his statements using English language to record. He said he then read the statements to the accused person in Mandinka language who expressed satisfaction to the content.
He said the accused therefore thumb printed the statements and he signed them as the one that obtained the statements.
At this juncture, the state counsel applied to tender the statements of Alagi Fatty and Kafu Bayo as evidence in court.
The trial judge asked the accused persons individually in the dock but there was no answer from any person as to whether or not they have objection to the tendering of the statements.
The judge said since the accused persons remain muted, he will rule that they have no objection. The statements were then tendered as exhibits.
Under cross examination, the trial judge asked the accused persons again individually if anyone had a question for the witness.
However, all the accused persons remained silent in court without reaction. The judge therefore said “I rule that each of the 11 accused persons have no question under cross examination for PW7. Therefore, the witness is hereby discharged.”
The final testimony came from Sub Inspector Foday Kombo Sillah attached to the gender and Child Protection unit of the Gambia Police Force. He testified that he recognized Lamin Sonko and Fatoumata Jawara as he was instructed to obtain their statements on the 19th and 21st April respectively.
“Upon arrival at Mile 2, I was able to meet the first accused Lamin Sonko. I introduced myself to him as a police officer wanting to obtain his statements and he agreed. I took his name and address and I took his cautionary statement. I gave him his statement and he went through if he is satisfied and he said yes. He then thumb printed it and I signed it,” said PW8.
He said he took the voluntary statement of the accused person by reading the cautionary warning to him. He said the accused then thumb printed the statement and he signed it.
“While on the 21st April 2016, I met Fatoumatta Jawara at the NIA headquarters in Banjul. I introduced myself to her as a police officer and informed her that I was there to obtain statements from her. After taking the cautionary statement I handed the statement back to her to read if she is satisfied and she said yes. She then thumb printed the statement and I signed it,” he said.
PW8 adduced that he was also the one that took the voluntary statement of Fatoumatta Jawara after reading cautionary warning to her. He said she thumb printed her statement and he signed it.
At this juncture, the prosecution applied to tender the said documents from the two accused persons.
When they were asked by the trial judge for reaction on the application, both remained silence. However, Lamin Sonko, the first accused person instead of objecting to the tendering of the statements said he had something to tell the court. He informed the court that it was the ruling of the court that they (accused persons) should be kept at Mile 2 prisons. However, he said they were instead taken to Jangjangbureh prisons which was contrary to the court order. He continued to state that among them, there are two women (pointing at Fatoumatta Jawara and Fatou Camara) who are seriously ill while Lamin Marong needs an eye operation and he could not have a doctor.
The trial judge at this point admitted the cautionary and voluntary statements of Lamikn Sonko and Fatoumata Jawara as exhibits in court.
The judge again asked all the accused persons if any among them have a question to cross examine the witness. However, none responded to the question of the judge. He therefore said he will rule that the accused persons have no question for PW8. He said PW8 is hereby discharged.
Regarding the issues raised by the first accused person, the judge said both Janjangbureh and Mile 2 prisons are under the same author.
He said if the prison authority felt that Janjangbureh prison is what favours the location of the trial that is left to them. While on the issue of their health status, he said he cannot order for the accused persons to go for outside treatment. He said he believes that prisons have a medical team which he believes can take care of the accused persons.
At this point, the state counsel applied for a two weeks adjournment to enable him to file a written address.
This was granted and the case was adjourned to 21st July 2016 for judgment at 10am.