By Kebba Jeffang
The ongoing criminal trial involving Mr. Lamin B. Jarju, the Alkalo of Babylon and twelve others, Thursday, 10th July, 2014 continued with the testimony of two accused persons at the Brikama Magistrates’s Court.
Appearing before Principal Magistrate Dayoh M. Small Dago, Chief Inspector Camara informed the trial magistrate of his representation for the state whilst Lawyer Borry S. Touray announced his appearance for the defendants.
Giving his testimony, Sulayman Colley, the fourth defence witness (DW4) and the 8th accused told the court that he lives in Babylon and that he is a borehole driller. He added that he is also a vocalist. He said he was going to the shop on the day in question when he met with the security officers who confronted him. He testified that they told him to enter a vehicle and he insisted. He said he enquired from them why he should do so, but they told him to enter the vehicle as he will know later.
“I was gun pointed when I insisted on not boarding the vehicle. I later entered and I found some people arrested already in while others were arrested at different places in Babylon. Some of my co- accused were known to me during our detention at Holgam in Kanifing. Before they arrested me, they asked me if I know Lamin B. Jarju and I replied in the affirmative and that was when I was asked to enter the vehicle. I knew only Alkalo Jarju, Ba saikou Ceesay, Kebba Njie, Modou Demba before the arrest but all the others I knew them during our detention period,” said the witness.
He testified that after his arrest, all those who were arrested were gun pointed individually before they boarded the vehicle. According to him, the security officers had asked the arrestees whether they know Alkalo Jarju.
He added, “That’s how they arrested us and drove to the “Alkalo’s compound where we spent more than fifteen minutes standing before we proceeded to Kombo Kerewan.”
“While we were passing through Kerewan, we reached a stage where the vehicles in the convoy stopped. The Operation Commander disembarked from the vehicle with three strong men and he called Lamin Jarju to come down,” said PW4.
He said when Lamin alighted from the vehicle and stood three metres away, one officer kicked him until he fell down and all the other officers started whipping him while he was down. He adduced that one security officer (officer Jagne), the Operation Commander (OP) took a gun from another officer and hit Lamin on the head and blood oozed out of his body. He said they later moved to Holgam.
The witness said while at Holgam, the security personnel took photos of them individually and later kept them in what he called ‘a one man cell.’
The witness remarked, “We did not give any statement at Holgam. I only know Francis Mendy when he testified in this matter. I also only know Valentine Ndeki in this case. I only see the farm of Francis during the locus visit. It is not true that I am part of a group that set fire on his orchard neither am I part of a group that cut 275 cashew trees.”
Mr. Colley adduced that he never gathered with all the accused persons together to talk about something that is even peace related much more to conspire with them to do something wrong to someone. He said he has never had a land dispute with the complainant, Francis Mendy.
Under cross examination, he strongly denied the allegation of cutting down 275 cashew trees on Francis Mendy’s farm. He again reiterated that Lamin B. Jarju was tortured.
Mr. Momodou Demba, the fifth defence witness (DW5) said he is a taxi driver by profession. He said it was on the 14th day of August, 2013 that he was arrested in Babylon while coming from his doctor where he underwent malaria treatment. He said he saw at least five vehicles on the way when he was going home. He stated that when he reached them, the Operation Commander of the taskforce called and asked him if he knows Lamin B. Jarju and he said he replied to him in the positive.
“It was at this point that he asked me to board one of the vehicles and I asked him why I should do so. Another officer confronted me asking me to enter before he hits my legs,” adding that”it is a Presidential order. I met Lamin B. jarju, Ba Saikou Ceesay, Alagi Manneh and Kebba Njie in the vehicle. Just before we left, Ba Saikou’s phone rang and his wife rushed to collect the phone, the Operation Commander slapped her. Ba Saikou complained and the Operation Commander asked him to shut his mouth, telling him whether he is the only man with a wife. The wife was also arrested. Another girl, Ndey Fatou Jarju (Lamin’s daughter) was also arrested for a comment she made,” said witness Demba.
He further testified that Sulayman Drammeh and many others were arrested later. He said Sulayman was slapped and gun butted until blood discharged from his mouth. He said from Lamin’s compound, they headed to Kombo Kerewan where Lamin was seriously beaten by officers instructed by the Operation Commander.
He said they beat Lamin until blood oozed out of his body and he (Lamin) shouted, “Do you want to kill me.” He said they later carried them to Holgam where they snapped each of them.
He remarked, “We were incarcerated in a ‘one man cell’ at Holgam before Lamin was later taken to Banjul hospital for treatment.”
He said they spent seven days at Holgam before they were transferred to the remand wing where they spent a night and later taken to Janjangbureh prison. He said they spent fourteen days at Janjangbureh before coming back to the remand wing in Banjul. He said he was never part of a group that chopped down 275 cashew trees. He denied the allegation of chopping and burning Francis Mendy’s orchard.
Under cross examination, the witness said he does not have time to destroy people’s farm. He said he is a family man who is thinking of how to take care of his family and not to destroy the livelihood of others.
The matter was adjourned till 15th July, 2014 for other defence witnesses to testify in the matter.