By Rohey Jadama
Twenty-eight senior civil servants of the Gambia government including Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Directors, Principal Assistant Secretaries, Chief Drivers and Drivers yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of ‘Neglect of Official duties’ and ‘Abuse of office’.
The accused persons namely Mr. Abdoulie Jallow,Mr. Kaiding Sambou, Mr. Bernard Mendy, Mr. Cherno Njie, Mr. Yira Jammeh, Mr. Abdoulie T.B Jarra, Miss Aminata Semega Janneh, Mr. Aussainou Jobarteh, Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, Mr. Fafa Sanyang, Mr. Cherno Omar Barry, Mr. Abdoulie K.M Jallow,Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, Mr. Lamin Camara,Mr. Lamin Sanneh, Mr. Tijan Jeng, Mrs. Fatoumatta Bah, Mr. Momodou Saidyleigh, Mrs Aja Fatou Gaye, Mr. Habib T.B Jarra, Mr. Jerreh Sanyang, Mr. Malang Jammeh,Mr. Momodou Lamin Jammeh, Mr. Lamin Sisay, Mrs Naffie Barry, Mr. Famara Darboe, Mrs Roheyatou Kah and Mr. Sanna Gassama.
When the case was called before Principal Magistrate Omar Cham of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court. Lawyer Lamin S. Camara appeared for the 5th, 10th, 9th, 14th, 15th,19th, 21st,23rd and 27th accused persons. Lawyer Patrick Gomez for the 3rd accused person. Lawyers Janneh and Musa Bachily appeared for the 6th,7th and 20th accused persons. Lawyers Hawa Sisay-Sabally, Omar Njie, Abdoulie Sissokho, Yassin Seneghore and Amie Jobe appeared for the 26th accused person. Lawyer Sisay-Sabally appeared for the 28th accused person. Lawyer Musa Bachily appeared for the 22nd accused person, Lawyer Njie for the 12th Accused, Lawyers Yassin Seneghore and Amie Jobe appeared for the 17th accused person and Combeh Gaye appeared for the 11th accused person; while ASP Badjie announced his representation for the IGP.
At this stage prosecutor Badjie told the court that the 26th accused Famara Darboe, 13th accused Abdoulie Jallow and accused Abdoulie T.B Jarra are absent.
When the charges were read to the accused persons, they all denied culpability. At this stage, Lawyer Janneh told the court that all the charges are bailable and to save time he will call upon Lawyer Camara to make a bail application which will relate to all the accused persons.
Barrister Camara said pursuant to section 99(1) of the CPC and section 19(5) of the 1997 constitution, he is applying for bail for the accused persons. He submitted that all the offences the accused persons are charged with are misdemeanours.
“The principle of bail is so important that it has been enshrined in section 19(5) of the 1997 constitution and section 99(1) [of the CPC] gives this court the powers to grant bail. One of the most important factors in a criminal trial is presumption of innocence until the accused persons are proven guilty by this court as per section 24(3) of the constitution”, submitted counsel Camara.
He added that bail is solely at the discretion of the court and went on to urge the court to exercise his discretion in favour of the defendants. He further told the court that the accused persons have been in custody for more than 72 hours since their arrest on 5 July, 2016.
“They have rendered selfless service to the country. They do not pose any flight risk if granted bail. He added that investigations are over. He said all the accused persons were dismissed from their post and their travelling documents confiscated by the NIA and that they are ready to defend their integrity. Finally I urge the court not to make the bail conditions so excessive”, he said.
Replying to the defence counsel, ASP Badjie told the court that they are opposing bail. He said investigations are still ongoing, that the accused persons are a flight risk and held senior government positions and if granted bail will use that influence to jump bail because the Gambia has porous borders and that they will interfere with witnesses. He urged the court to exercise its discretion in favour of the prosecution.
Replying on points of law lawyer Camara said nobody travels outside the Gambia without an ID card and that it is the duty of the police and the immigration to open or close the border. He cited an authority which is a high court ruling to support his argument.
At this juncture, the presiding Magistrate adjourned the case till Monday 18th July, 2016 for ruling on the bail application.