By Yankuba Jallow
Prosecution Witness 3 (PW3) who identified himself as Abdoulie Sanneh, said Solo Sandeng was sound and energetic at the time of his arrest and detention at Kanifing Police Intervention Unit headquarters.
In his testimony before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara of the Criminal Division of the Banjul High Court, Sanneh said he is a resident of Banjulinding Village and also a police officer with the rank of Assistant Commissioner, stationed at the Gambia Police Force Headquarters in Banjul; that at the time the April 2016 incident happened, he was posted at the Serrekunda Police Station.
Speaking about the incident, PW3 said at the time of the protest at Westfield, he was at the Station around the hours of 2pm to 4pm but not in uniform. “I am a uniform officer but on that particular day, I did not wear a uniform,” he said.
He said whilst at his office in the Serrekunda Police, he received a telephone call from Commissioner Kebba Bojang, the Regional Commissioner; that Commissioner Bojang told him there were some people who gathered at Westfield, close to NAWEC head office with a banner bearing the slogan: ‘We need electoral reform.’
Hence, he said he contacted the Commanding Officer of the Westfield area Momodou Sowe, in order for him to organise some of the task force officers to go to Westfield; that Sowe complied and organised the officers and went with him as well as some officers to Westfield. “When I arrived at Westfield, I found a group of people with the banner: ‘We need proper electoral reforms,’ written in red ink on a white banner,” he said. The lead State Counsel, Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye asked if he could recall any person at the scene and he responded in the negative. He said as he was the senior officer present, he proceeded to identify the heads of the protesters in which he was told that it was one Ebrima Sandeng, commonly called Solo Sandeng.
He said he walked towards Solo to identify himself but he said Solo called him as ‘Officer’ and by that time, Solo Sandeng was in the middle of the crowd. He described the situation at Westfield as Chaotic by the time and that people were chanting: ‘It is our right,’ in the midst of too much noise.
“I asked Solo to move from the crowd so that I can speak to him. He wanted to follow me but the crowd refuted and held his hands and shirt that he will not move an inch,” he said. The witness said he asked Solo Sandeng if he had a permit to hold the protest but the crowd was shouting that it is their right and they don’t need a permit to hold a protest. He said he decided to withdraw himself from the crowd and called his Commissioner, Kebba Bojang, and gave him feedback.
Continuing with his evidence, the witness said after a few moments, he saw a truck full of PIU officers on the ground and upon arrival, started arresting people. He said no officer spoke to him at the time of the arrest and he was to be arrested because he was not in uniform but was saved by one of his junior officers who identified him to the others. “The PIU officials arrested the protesters and threw them in the truck,” he said.
He said the officers who did the arrest weren’t armed and after the arrest, went with those arrested to the Kanifing PIU camp where they were put in a hall and made to sit on the floor. “I saw officers seizing the detainees’ mobile phones and other gadgets and put them in a bucket,” he said.
The witness told the court that the officers indicated to him that they are notified to wait for the Security Chiefs’ arrival but that one of the detainees pleaded to him to spare him a call to speak to his family, which he said, he did. He said Ebrima Solo Sandeng also did the same and he also gave his phone to Sandeng to speak to his family; that Mr. Sandeng gave him D3, 500 to deliver to his brother who is a police officer for a family program.
For moments, he continued, that he was notified that the Security Chiefs were present at Commissioner Nfamara Jallow’s office at Kanifing PIU camp.
“I went there and found the former Inspector General of Police, Yankuba Sonko, the former Director of NIA Yankuba Badjie and some other officers,” he said. “I was asked by the former IGP to brief him because I was the first senior officer present,” he said. After briefing the senior officers, he said they moved to the hall where the detainees were held and found out that the officers from the Criminal Records Office (CRO) were taking photos of the detainees.
“At that juncture, Yankuba Badjie asked me if I can identify five of the detainees and I identified Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie and Modou Ngom for him,” he said. “The other two, Ebrima Jabang and Kafu Bayo were identified by an intelligence officer present at the time with the Intelligence Chief, Yankuba Badjie,” he said.
“I was standing beside Yankuba Badjie and heard him ordering the five identified, to be taken to Banjul at the NIA head office and he will follow them,” he said. “The five were taken away to Banjul in a white pickup with black tainted glass,” he said. He told the Court that he was in possession of the list of the detainees and when the five left for Banjul, he ticked their names on the list. He said the list was written in ink (pen) given to him by PIU officers who he cannot recall. “29 persons were arrested at Westfield and 1 was arrested at Abuko,” he said. He said at the time of their arrest and detention, Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie and Modou Ngom, were all sound and energetic. “I heard Yankuba saying: ‘take the remaining detainees to mile II,” he said. “IGP Sonko asked me to give the CRO officers my vehicle to take the detainees to mile II” he said.
The witness acknowledged that he made a statement about the case in August this year because four days after the incident, he travelled to USA where he had spent some time. He brought to the notice of the court that his name was mentioned on Count 6 that he was the one who gave a directive to disperse the protesters but refuted this saying: “I have never done that”.
He was shown his statement to identify and he concurred that it was the actual statement he had made. In his final attestation, he told the Court that he cannot remember where he had thrown the original copy of the list of the detainees.
Counsel AB Gaye applied for an adjournment since the 1st accused person was not represented by a lawyer, in order to enable his attorneys to appear in the next adjourned date. He pleaded to the court to serve the defence lawyers for the 1st accused person, notice of hearing.
The case was adjourned to Monday and Tuesday 13 & 14 November, 2017.