By Lamin Sanyang
Justice Emmanuel Amadi of the Special Criminal Court has yesterday, Wednesday, 3 September, 2014 acquitted and discharged Mr. Alhagie Jobe, Deputy Editor-In-Chief of the Daily Observer Newspaper, and Mr. Mbye Bittaye, former staff of Africell Company, at a sitting held at the Banjul High Court.
Alhagie Jobe and Mbye Bittaye were arraigned before the Special Criminal Court in Banjul, presided over by then Justice Emmanuel Nkea, and charged with five counts for the former and one count for the latter. The duo denied the charges leveled against them and the trial took almost 1 year 4 months, during which the first accused (Jobe) was denied bail.
The first accused (Alhagie Jobe) was arraigned for making an act with a seditious intention, seditious publication, possession of seditious publication, false information to a public servant and reckless and negligent acts all contrary to the laws of the Gambia. The second accused (Mbye Bittaye) was charged with one count of making preparation to do an act with seditious intention also contrary to the laws of the Gambia.
Justice Amadi eventually took over the case from Justice Emmanuel Nkea.
Justice Amadi in acquitting and discharging the accused persons referred to several sections of the Constitution and Law of Evidence. He noted that the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. He said it has failed to prove evidence to all the offences charged against the accused persons.
“I hereby acquit and discharge the accused persons accordingly,” said Justice Amadi.
The trial judge highlighted the counts preferred against the accused persons. He made mentioned of the arguments submitted by the prosecution and defense counsels respectively. He argued that the charges on sedition against the first accused (Jobe) were not supported by facts.
Justice Amadi said he has thoroughly examined the charges on sedition which, he said, emanated from the alleged story written by the 1st accused (Jobe). He quoted the headline of the alleged story, “Major Lamin Touray on the Run” and read its content to the court. It was his view that there are no facts of sedition or seditious intentions in the said story. It was also his ruling that the alleged story does not contain any evidence of threat to the general public.
He also highlighted the count on False Information to a public servant. He said in order to have conviction on this count, the prosecution must prove all elements of evidence. He argued that the statement given by the 1st accused does not fall under the purview of false information as stipulated in the laws of the Gambia.
“There is no evidence as consequence of the alleged offense of False Information. The nature of False Information is not specified in the offense. It is vague. It is not implicating any public servant,” said the trial judge.
The trial judge in acquitting the 1st accused on count six for reckless and negligent driving said it lacks merit because none of the prosecution witnesses was an eye witness. He also said none of the arresting officers have testified in the trial. He noted that the prosecution has failed to prove evidence before the court on the said count.
“There was no evidence to prove that the accident induced on the 1st accused was an accident,” he told court.
In the meantime, the second accused (Bittaye), who was standing on a single count, was also acquitted and discharged by the trial judge. He argued that the charge preferred against the second accused has failed because the prosecution has not proved any evidence to the offense charged against him.
The duo walked out of the dock as free men and embraced their families, friends and love ones. The Deputy Editor-In-Chief of the Daily Observer, who has been remanded all throughout the trial which lasted for more than 1 year, was also seen embracing his colleagues from the media.