WHATSAPP CASE: COURT-MARTIAL REMANDS 12 SOLDIERS AT MILE II

By: Yankuba Jallow and Mustapha Jallow

A Court Martial on Friday has ordered that 12 military officers be remanded at Mile II Prisons on alleged offences related to ‘WhatsApp’ communication. The officers are yet to take their pleas.

Information reaching Foroyaa is that the 12 officers are charged with nine counts including treason. The military officers were arraigned before a panel of a judge advocate and a panel of five military officers at the Yundum Military Camp. The Judge Advocate is Sainabou Ceesay-Wadda. The composition of the court-martial is Colonel Salifu Bojang as the President and members are Lieutenant Colonel Seedy Joof, Major Lamin K. Sanyang, Major Abdoulie Manneh and Major Basiru Sarr whilst the waiting members are Lieutenant Colonel Mai Touray, Captain A. Dacosta and Captain Awa Bah. The clerk of the court is Warrant Officer Class II Fakebba S. Camara and also the Officer Under Instruction is Captain Moro F. Sanneh.

The accused persons are Captain Yahya Jammeh, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju, Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, Sergeant Baboucarr Sanneh, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Corporal Sulayman Sanyang, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Ebrima Jallow, Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang, Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Private Mbemba Camara and Private Alieu Sanneh.

Capt. Yaya Jammeh

When the case was called before the panel, MB Abubakar, A. Yusuf, Yusupha Jallow and 2 others appeared for the State whilst Lieutenant Alieu Sanneh, Captain Baboucar Bah, Lieutenant William Demba, Captains Suwaibou Jammeh, Abdoulie K. Conteh, Kebba Jabbie and some others appeared for the accused persons.

MB Abubakar applied for the court to remand the accused persons at Mile II relying to provisions of Regulations under the Gambia Armed Force Act submitting that the military detention centres lack adequate facilities.

Captain Suwaibou Jammeh of the defence team opposed the application, saying for easy access to their legal counsels the court should allow them to be remanded at the military barracks until the next adjourned date. He added that as one of the charges included ‘treason’, they will have to sit with their families and discuss the issue of legal representation in order for them to choose a legal counsel of their choice. He further argued on the inclusion of Yusupha Jallow in the prosecution team saying his involvement faulted the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) Act. He cited section 98 (h) that “any person who prior to the court-martial, participated in any of the investigation in respect of the matters upon which a charge upon which the accused person is founded” shall not be qualified to sit as a member of a general court-martial. He added that the provision of section 98(h) disqualifies any person who partook in an investigation from forming part of the court-martial. He told the Court-martial that Yusupha Jallow was part of the investigation leading to the trial and he cannot be part of the court-matial. He also said they were not served with the witnesses’ statements and other documents relevant to their defence.

MB Abubakar in his counter argument said the objections are more of concerns. He added that the order for the remand is without prejudice a right as guaranteed in Section 108 of the GAF Regulation Act. He supported his argument saying the law obliges the prison authorities to grant the accused persons in remand access to their counsels and he urged the court to overrule the defence objection. On the issue of witnesses’ statements, the prosecution will act in accordance with section 111 of the GAF Act. He said Yusupha does not form part of the court but the prosecution and section 98 (h) deals with the disqualification of a person forming part of the court-martial and backed his argument by citing regulations under the Act.

The court-martial in its ruling said it has considered both the prosecution’s applications and the defence’s responses, ordered for the remand of the accused persons because the defence did not establish that they will be denied access by the prison authorities. The court held that the defence’s objection was not supported by any law and made further order that the prosecution to avail the defence all the necessary documents needed for the defence including the witness statements. The court also held that section 98(h) deals with the members of the court-matial and Yusupha Jallow is not a member of the court-martial. It also held that the defence has misconstrued section 98(h) of the Act because Yusupha Jallow formed part of the prosecution not the court.

The court adjourned the matter till 27th November 2017 at 9:30am for plea taking.