By Kebba Jeffang
The Criminal division court of the High Court of the Gambia presided over by Justice Emmanuel Amadi in his ruling on bail application on Tuesday, November 25, 2014, granted bail to Momodou Sabally, the former Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service and the Minister for Presidential Affairs, in the sum of One Million Five hundred Thousand dalasi (1.5million) after more than four months under detention at different places.
When the case was called, DPP appeared for the state whilst Lawyer Antouman Gaye appeared for the accused person.
The trial judge, in delivering the most awaited ruling in a congested court room, recalled that there was a motion filed dated 17th November, 2014, by the defence, supported by 33 paragraphs affidavit that was sworn to by the wife of the applicant (the accused person). He said the defence said they relied on all the paragraphs. He said the counsel also relied on section 19 of the constitution as well as the CPC, while he added that all the eight counts charges are bailable offences.
He said the applicant said the accused person was arrested by NIA and that there were no criminal charges until 11 August, 2014, after which he was remanded at the NIA again. He said the applicant further stated that the accused person was under detention at the said place until 22nd October, 2014, and was remanded at Mile 2 Central prison. He said according to a paragraph in the affidavit, the accused person, since upon his graduation from the university, had been working with the government and he is a Gambian, and a family head with children. He said it was also stated that the accused person, when granted bail, would appear in court at any time for hearing; and it was based on these reasons that the accused person should be granted bail as submitted by the defence.
Justice Amadi, in recalling the submission of the state, said the application was opposed by the state counsel, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), and had also filed an affidavit of opposition. He said the DPP said there was a likelihood that new charges might be brought against the accused person and as such granting bail should not be done.
He added that DPP further objected to the bail because he submitted that the accused person, if granted bail, could interfere with their potential witnesses, or could even run and jump the bail, and cited other cases who were also charged with similar counts of economic crimes.
The trial judge said in the reply to the submission made by the DPP on whether the accused person would jump bail if granted bail, defence Counsel Gaye stated that he was not in the heart of the accused person to determine whether the accused person would run, but that every trial should be based on its own peculiar evidence.
However, in his ruling, the trial judge said no person should be deprived of his or her liberty as stated by the law, except in exceptional conditions recognized by the law. He said every person, who is charged with criminal offences, is presumed innocent until proven guilty and that bail is a constitutional right to any accused person, so that he can prepare for defence. He added that giving bail also has conditions one of which is that the accused person should appear in court for hearing at any time the matter is to be dealt with and that it is in line with CPC’s procedure to grant bail.
Justice Amadi added that the eight count charges preferred against the accused person are all bailable offences. He said DPP said they have a good case against the accused person, and there was a likelihood of adding more charges. He also said it is an economic crime even though it is a bailable offence. However, he said he did not believe that the weight of the charge affected the application. He said there was a paragraph in the reply which was also sworn to by the wife of the accused person stating that the accused person would not interfere with potential witnesses. He said the issue was whether the accused person would appear in court for proceedings but that the affidavit had already guaranteed that by indicating that the accused person would neither run, nor would he miss the proceedings.
However, he said there was no absolute certainty in this issue, since the defence counsel said he was not in the heart of the accused person to determine what his intention would be.
At this juncture, the trial judge granted bail to the accused person to the sum of One Million Five Hundred Thousand Dalasi (1.5M) to be deposited with the registrar of the High Court. The surety should be a Gambian with land within the greater Banjul area that valued 1.5M and should deposit all the documents; that the accused person himself should deposit all his traveling documents, including the Passport and the National Identity card.
He said the matter should proceed once every week, starting on December 1st, 2014.
However, as the family began preparing to meet the bail conditions, the accused was swiftly put in a waiting prison van and taken away to Mile two prison.