By Kebba Jeffang
A police constable on Thursday, 6th November, 2014 testified as the third prosecution witness (PW3) in the trial of Sheikh Muhideen Hydara, and Buyeh Touray, the Caliph General and Alkalo of Darsilameh Sangajor respectively at the Brikama Magistrates’ Court before Principal Magistrate Omar Cham.
This followed the end of cross examination of PW2 by the defence.
When the case was called, Chief Inspector Camara and Sub-Inspector Ebrima Sarr announced their representation for the state whilst the accused persons were represented by Lawyer Lamin K. Mboge.
At the beginning of the proceeding, Seedy Gibba, the Chief’s Badge Messenger, who gave his evidence as PW2 during the last sitting, was asked to enter the witness box for cross examination by the defence counsel.
Under cross examination, PW2 told the Court that he is 36 years old and that he is a Muslim. He agreed with the defence counsel that God enjoined him as a Muslim to perform the five daily prayers and on time but that sometimes he misses the time if he is traveling. He said he has never been arrested for not praying on time. He said the last Muslim feast of Tobaski also met him in the Gambia but he observed it on the day chosen by the Supreme Islamic Council (Saturday). He said he was not aware of any prayer on Sunday in the Gambia and Senegal.
The witness continuing his testimony under cross examination, said there is no compulsion in religion because it is personal, but added that you can force your family to do what God says.
“Are you conversant with the Holy Quran?” asked Mboge.
The witness responded in the negative, but added that it is an obligation for Muslims to understand the Quran.
“Have you been sanctioned by anybody for not studying the Quran?” asked the defence counsel.
“When I was young my father used to force me to read the holy book,” answered the witness.
“At the age of 36, have you ever been aware of any incident in the whole world that someone was arrested and charged for not praying the five daily prayers?” asked Mboge. PW2 replied in the negative.
“Do you know why the police did not arrest you for not praying?” asked the defence lawyer . “No,” he replied.
“I am putting it to you that it is not the business of the police to do so because religion is personal and the person is praying to God and not to the police,” said the defence lawyer. The witness responded “That’s true.”
“Have you ever heard the police arresting someone for not fasting?” asked lawyer Mboge. PW2 responded in the negative.
“Are you surprised to see the accused persons arrested and charged for praying to God?” asked counsel. “Yes I am surprised,” said the witness.
“Those who prayed on the 28th and 29th July, 2014 during the last Koriteh feast, whose prayer among the two was accepted?” asked the defence lawyer. In his answer the witness said “God says those in control of the religion should be followed.”
“Is it in the Quran that those who do not follow the instruction of those in control should be arrested?” asked the defence lawyer. He responded that he doesn’t know.
When he was asked to tell the court whether there is a provision in the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet or the Caliphs that states that anybody who prays on a particular day different from the suggestion of those in control should be arrested, the witness answered that he does not know.
PW2 said he knows Sheikh Muhideen Hydara, the first accused person, as an elderly person, who is well versed in the Islamic religion but does not know him as the head of ‘Sheriff’ community in the country. He added that he does not also know why he prayed on 29th July and not 28th July.
At this juncture, the third prosecution witness (PW3) was called to enter the witness box to give evidence.
He introduced himself as Seedy Saidykhan, a police constable with regimental number PC4468 and attached to Bwiam police station. He said he recognized the accused persons and that he can recall the 29th day of July, 2014 as he was on duty at Kanfenda Police Checkpoint. He said he reported to the said Checkpoint from 7am to 8pm.
He adduced that between 11am and 12pm, he received a report from his command that he should go to Darsilameh Sangajor Sheriff Kunda to invite the Imam and the Alkalo to the station in connection with the Koriteh pray issue.
PW3 said “When I got to the place, I was told that the Imam was sick and I proceeded to the Alkalo who I met in his compound. I asked him whether they prayed on the 29th November and he confirmed that they prayed. I asked him who led the prayer and he said Sheikh Muhideen Hydara (1st accused person). I escorted him to the Caliph’s compound and I asked the Caliph the same questions and he too confirmed. This was the time I escorted the Alkalo to Bwiam police station where I gave feedback to my command. We then called the Caliph himself to the station. He gave statement to that effect.”
The matter at this juncture was adjourned to 19th November, 2014 at 12pm, after an objection was raised by the prosecutor, who argued that there is consistent application of adjournment by the defence. “It is wasting the time of the witnesses who came from faraway places,” said Sub Inspector Sarr.
In granting the application for an adjournment, the trial magistrate warned the defence that this is the last time he is granting such application.