By Rohey Jadama
Justice Eunice O. Dada of the Banjul High court yesterday 8 November, 2016 convicted Mr. Abdoulie Ceesay, the Managing Director of Taranga FM and sentenced him to various fines and two years in prison. If he defaults in the payment of the fines he will serve additional two years in prison.
The manager of the Sinchu based radio station had escaped from prison custody while receiving treatment at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital and since then the trial continued in absentia. His trial started in the magistrates’ court on August 15 2015 but was later transferred to the high court in Banjul.
Delivering her judgment the trial judge said the accused is charged with 6 counts of Sedition and 1 count of publication of False News. She said the accused person pleaded not guilty to the charges but escaped while receiving treatment at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.
She said the prosecution called four witnesses to prove its case and at the end of the prosecution’s case the defence filed a no case to answer which was overruled by the court and the accused was ordered to enter his defence but failed to do so.
Justice Dada said PW2 Fatou Drammeh testified that the accused sent her two images with a gun pointed on the President. She added the defence cross-examined the witness partly but before the defence completed the cross-examination, the witness had left the jurisdiction.
She said the defence counsel applied for the evidence of PW2 to be expunged because the witness did not show up for cross-examination. The DPP submitted that the witness was cross-examined substantially but not completely. She said the court in its ruling held that the evidence of PW2 will not be expunged but it will be waive at the determination of the trial.
The trial judge said the accused person chose to remain silent during his defence and on the adoption of briefs for judgment the accused person escaped while receiving treatment and the court held that the case shall proceed in his absence.
She added that the DPP in his brief said the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. He said the DPP referred the court to the evidence of PW2 who was the direct recipient of the message and urged the court to convict the accused.
Lawyer Combeh Gaye in her address argued that the prosecution has not proved their case beyond reasonable doubt. She further submitted that it is the constitutional right of the accused person to remain silent and urged the court to disregard the submission of the DPP.
She said defence counsel Gaye argued that the accused sent the message to PW2 and Zainab Koneh with whom he is in a relationship with. She added that the accused in his cautionary statement said he was confronted that he sent messages to Fatou Drammeh but it was a mistake and that he later apologized Ms. Drammeh. He said he wanted to send it to Zainab.
The trial judge held that she will rely on the evidence of PW2 partially. She said the messages the accused sent is seditious and that it was established that the accused sent the messages to Fatou Drammeh and Zainab Koneh.
She said the defence counsel argued that the accused sent the message to two people not the public. Justice Dada said every message sent via the internet whether Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter is no longer private. She said the accused disseminated the said message and he is rightly charged with sedition and she said the accused is found guilty of all counts.
In her plea of mitigation on behalf of the accused person Barrister Gaye told the court that the accused is a first time offender. She urged the court not to impose a custodial sentence on the convict but rather to impose a fine on him.
Justice Dada said counts one and two constitute one count, for which she sentenced Mr. Ceesay to 1 year imprisonment and a fine of D100,000. Counts 3,4,5,6 Sedition also constitutes one count and the convict was sentence to 1 year imprisonment and with a fine of D100,000. The judge held that failure of the convict to pay the fines he will serve an additional 2 years imprisonment. On count 7 publication of false news he was sentence to 2 years imprisonment. She further held that the sentences are to run consecutively.
Justice Dada said the sentence shall take effect whenever the convict is arrested. She held that an order will be served on the police to arrest the convict.