By Rohey Jadama
Thirteen supporters of United Democratic Party UDP who were arrested on 9 May, 2016 were yesterday 12 July arraigned before Justice O. Ottaba of the Special Criminal Division of the Banjul High court after having spent two months in detention.
The accused persons namely Bakary Jammeh, Kaddy Samateh, a mother of a two months old baby, Lele Bojang , Alkali Sanneh, Yaya Fatty, Solo Huma, Muhmmed Singhateh, Kemo Touray, Bakary Marong, Buba Mass, Alagie Saidykhan, Tombong Njie, Modou Sarr, Sheriff Suma and Lamin Dampha.
When the case was called B. Jaiteh and Sheriff Kumba Jobe appeared for the state, while Lawyers Combeh Gaye, Anna Njie and Amie Jobe announced their representation for all the accused persons.
At this juncture, state counsel B. Jaiteh told the court that at the last adjourned date the matter was adjourned for mention/plea. He further informed the court that they are ready to proceed.
Reacting to B. Jaiteh, defence counsel Gaye told the court that the accused persons are neither served with the original nor the amended copy of the bill of indictment. At this juncture, the court clerk was seen handing over a copy of the said indictment to the defence team.
At this point Counsel Gaye applied for the 2nd accused person who was carrying her baby in the dock to be seated which was granted by the court.
“We are objecting to the charges against the 2nd and 3rd accused persons. They are standing trial at the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on the same charges. I have a copy of the charge sheet from the Kanifing Magistrates’ court. The said copy was handed over to Justice Ottaba. Up to now the charges are not withdrawn against them. It is our submission that it is abuse of court process to file the same charges in different courts”, submitted Combeh Gaye.
She further told the court that the two women have been granted bail by the lower court and that they appeared yesterday to answer to the charges and that their bail was extended by the said court.
She finally urged the court to strike out the charges against them. She said even though they were granted bail, they were rearrested, detained and slept overnight in custody, which according to her violate the rights of her clients.
She said with regard to the rest of the accused persons they were arrested since 9 May, 2016. She further told the court that they did not have the opportunity to have conference with them or to get their instructions regarding the charges they are facing before the court. She requested for them to talk to their clients before plea is taken.
Responding to the defence counsel’s submission, Lawyer Jaiteh argued that the application of the defence counsel is premature and not supported by any law. He submitted that when information is filed before a superior court it automatically takes precedence. He urged the court to use its powers to order for the lower court to transfer the matter to the high court. He cited section 5(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code to support his submission.
Replying on points of law, Lawyer Gaye submitted that even if the court adopts the procedure of transferring the case from the lower court as applied for by the state counsel it would not serve any purpose because section 2 of the practice direction 1 of 2013 states that where a case is transferred from the lower court to the high court the proceedings must be made on a fresh indictment.
Delivering his ruling justice Ottaba, said in view of the fact that the 2nd and the 3rd accused persons are standing trial at the Kanifing Magistrates’ court, she ordered for the charges against them to be transferred to the high court for expeditious hearing.
At this stage the case was stood down for the defence team to talk to the accused persons before their plea was taken.
Upon resumption, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to seven counts of ‘Conspiracy to commit Felony’, ‘Unlawful Assembly’,’ Riot’, ‘Incitement of Violence’, ‘interfering with vehicle’, ‘Holding a possession without a permit’ and ‘Disobeying an order to disperse’.
At this stage Lawyer Gaye applied for the bail of the 2nd and 3rd accused persons to be extended. She further applied for the other accused persons to have access to their families, food and clothing. However, state counsel Jaiteh said due to the peculiar circumstances of the two ladies, he is not opposing bail.
Justice Ottaba in his ruling extended the bail of the two ladies pending the filing of a formal bail application. He also ordered for the rest of the accused be remanded in custody at Mile Two Central Prison and for them to be allowed access to family, food and clothing.