Mr. Bai Mass Kah, the Foroyaa Newspaper, who was standing trial on a charge of sedition, was Tuesday, September 09, 2014, acquitted and discharged by Magistrate Amie Jagne of the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court.
Sergeant Yaya Colley appeared for the state whilst Lawyer Lamin S. Camara represented the accused person.
Delivering her judgment in a crowded courtroom, Magistrate Jagne reminded the court that the case before her is for judgment. She recalled that the accused person standing before her was charged with one count of seditious act and that he pleaded not guilty to the charge.
She said the prosecution during the trial called five witnesses and tendered 4 Exhibits in order to proof their case. She said the first prosecution witness (PW1), Lamin Camara, who is a material witness in the case, told the court that he did not know the accused person in any kind and further alleged that the accused person said that Halifa Sallah is the only man who wore trouser. She said the accused person has denied the claim.
Magistrate Jagne adduced that all other witnesses have testified that the accused person said “if you wish paste the photo of the President of the Republic in the sky” and not “why not you paste the photo of the President of the republic in the sky.”
The trial magistrate explained that the defence counsel argued that these two statements are different. She said the defence lawyer submitted that the statement of “if you wish you paste the said photo in the sky” is not a statement that can undermine the President. She added that the defence lawyer said if the prosecution is to prove their case on a statement, the claim must contain hatred, contempt or any other ways that can harm the image or undermine the President as a person.
She further stated that it is not in dispute that the accused person has uttered a statement but that is not what he was charged with. She added that the accused has denied the statement “why not you paste the photo of the President in the sky.”
The trial magistrate noted that all the prosecution witnesses were cross examined by the defence counsel and that all have repeatedly confirmed that the accused person said “if you wish you paste the photo of the President in the sky.”
Magistrate Jagne further indicated that all the four exhibits tendered by the prosecution, including the investigation report, did not contain the statement “why not you paste the photo of the President in the sky.” She cited Exhibits MK1 and MK4, adding that both stated “if you wish you paste the photo of the President in the sky.”
She concluded “the prosecution could not prove their case and accordingly I acquit and discharge the accused person.”
It could be recalled that Mr. Kah was arraigned on Wednesday, 27th November, 2013 at the said court after being held in detention for 13 days at the NIA and various police stations before being charged with seditious act.
The particulars of offence stated that Bai Mass Kah, on or about 14 November, 2013 between 16hrs and 17hrs at Latrikunda German within Kanifing Municipality and diverse areas, with willful intention, uttered a statement against a photo of the President of the Gambia which one Lamin Camara was pasting on his vehicle opposite a tailoring workshop, asking “why not you paste the said photo of the President on the sky,” and thereby committed an offence.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him.
Mr. Kah, after emerging from the courtroom, was seen shaking hands with well wishers, friends and relatives.
Managing Editor’s Note
Although Bai Mass Kah was not charged for anything published by Foroyaa, one cannot separate crime associated with speech from the media. The acquittal and discharge is welcomed. Special appreciation goes to Lawyer Lamin Camara and his team, especially, Lawyer Edward Singhateh. He or a member of his team never missed a sitting. The media houses and the Gambia Press Union (GPU) need to collaborate to give lawyer Camara an award for being among the best defenders of freedom of expression and freedom of the media in this country. International Awards should follow as a mode of encouragement. Such cases are time consuming and yield very little benefit.
We are studying the new dispensation in the courts before making a pronouncement. The trend is however in the right direction. Once the courts ensure the dispensation of justice without fear or favour, justice will be done and will be seen to be done. This is the hallmark of an Independent and impartial judiciary.