PIU officer testifies in UDP 15 trial

By Kebba Jeffang

The trial of the 15 supporters of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) commenced at the Special Criminal Court of the Banjul high court on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 with the testimony of the first prosecution witness who is part of the arresting team that arrested the accused persons on May, 9th 2016.

When the matter was called state counsel B Jaiteh announced his appearance for the state whilst lawyers Anna Njie, Amie Jobe and Yasin Senghore represented the accused persons.

Earlier before testimony, Counsel Njie reminded the court that there are orders made by the court during the last adjourned date which are not complied with including accessing the accused persons by family members at Mile 2 prisons. She said the court also made an order for the accused persons to be allowed to change their clothes, adding that the accused persons have been wearing the same clothes since the day of their arrest. She also submitted that lawyers are facing difficulties in getting in touch with their clients to enable them to have interviews with them. She said due to this, the defence could not be set to file bail application due to lack of crucial information from the accused persons.  She said they were once given chance but that the time allocated was too short and they could not talk to many others.

At this point, the trial judge asked a prison officer to tell the court why family members of the accused persons were not given access to meet their loved ones. Officer Kalifa Bojang informed the court that family members are denied access because they normally come when the visiting time is closed.

Counsel Senghore also informed the court that they are not still served with the voluntary, cautionary and witness statements by the prosecution. However, the state counsel said he will serve the defence today.

Testifying as the first prosecution witness (PW1), the witness identified himself as Sub-Inspector Alagie Touray, and stated that he lives in Wellingara and is a police officer by occupation. He added that he is attached to the Police Intervention Unit in Kanifing. He said he recognized the accused persons and could recall what happened on the 9 may, 2016. He explained that he was on duty at the PIU base at 4: 08pm when their Officer Commanding Superintendent Saine informed them about mass people marching from Banjul highway towards Serekunda end. He said they left as a team including their OC for Ice Man junction where they met a lot of people.

“The crowd was blocking the highway, insulting and shouting. Our OC told them to stop what they were doing as it is not in line with the laws of the Gambia but they refused. He again told them to leave and go about their businesses but they refused. The traffic was blocked for passersby. We were then instructed to arrest them for police action,” witness concluded.

At this juncture, the trial judge ordered the prosecution to serve the defence with the voluntary, cautionary and all other necessary documents needed in the matter before the next adjourned date, 27 July 2016.