Prison Warder Opens Defence In Voire Dire

By Mamadou Dem

Ebrima B Njie who is jointly charged with Edrisa Manga yesterday opened his defence in the voire dire alleging that while he was detained at the then National Intelligence Agency (NIA), he was forced to sign a cautionary statement.

Testifying before Principal Magistrate Isatou Janneh- Njie of Banjul Magistrates Court, Mr. Njie disclosed that he was detained at the NIA for two months three days and was never informed of making a statement. “I did not write the statement (VD1),” said Njie.

According to the witness, he came to know about it only the day he was called to sign. When asked by his attorney, barrister Patrick Gomez what were the circumstances surrounding the obtainment of his statement. He said “We were force, beaten, locked in cells poured water on us and put us on cuffs.”

“Because of the hardship I went through, I decided to sign the statement because they said I must sign by force,” he adduced. He added that the writings on the statement are not his. “I was never given the opportunity to write my statement”, he added.

At that juncture, state counsel Babucarr Jaiteh applied for the matter to be adjourned in order to allow the actual state counsel in the matter to proceed with the case. He said he is new in the case but state counsel Lamin Jarju is well au-fait with the facts of the case.

“As a junior counsel learning court proceedings, I urged this court to adjourn this case in order for the lead counsel to cross examine the first accused,” submitted Jaiteh.

At that point, attorney for both accused persons objected to the state application on grounds that it was wrong and misdirection for state counsel to say that he’s new in the matter; adding that the records show that counsel was indeed present in two occasion and even lead the state in some of the proceedings.

“The state had delayed the trial and the fundamental rights of the accused persons are at stake as they are still in custody. The rights of the accused persons are much more fundamental than him being new in this case. I therefore urged the court to reject his application,” Gomez submitted.

Replying on points of law, barrister Jaiteh countered that the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the prosecution. “It’s my submission that when the accused persons were in court I was not a state counsel then,” he said.

He argued that it is therefore important for the proper counsel to be present in court; adding that the right to fair trial is enshrine in the 1997 Constitution and for that being the case, he urged the court  to adjourn the matter to enable his colleague continue with the case.

The application was granted by the court while the defence objection was overruled. Consequently, the matter was adjourned to Tuesday 28th of this month for cross- examination by the state.

Mr. Jaiteh earlier announced the closure of the prosecution in the voire dire because the independent witness that was supposed to testify in the case wasn’t available.

The duos are standing trial of ‘aiding and abetting’ Abdoulie Ceesay, former Managing Director of Taranga FM Radio. However, they pleaded not guilty as charged and were granted bail but both accused persons are held at Mile II as they couldn’t fulfil the bail condition levied on them.