By Rohey Jadama
Mustapha Njie, the driver of the taxi vehicle in which Binta Jarju was shot and killed, yesterday 11th May, 2015 opened his defence as defence witness 1 (DW1) before Magistrate Patrick Gomez of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) was represented by Sergeant Kolley and Chief Inspector Fadera, while Lawyer Edward Gomez announced his appearance for the accused person.
Continuing his defence, DW1 told the court that his name is Mustapha Njie, that he is a driver and he lives in Kanifing South and currently he is remanded at the remand wing.
The witness further told the court he can fully remember the 7th of March 2015 between 8 and 11 pm. He said he was driving a Mecedes Benz with two passengers on board the vehicle, PW1 and the late Yabinta.
Mr. Njie said he did not have a driving license, that is the reason why he did not stop at the check point. He said thereafter the military shot at his vehicle and the rear wind screen of his vehicle was smashed. He added that the military then boarded their vehicle and pursued him.
“I had warning shots but I don’t know how many were fired”, said DW1. He said when he swerved to another street his vehicle stopped at a ‘flower tree’. He said but before he stopped at the ‘flower tree’ a shot was fired which hit the forehead of Yabinta because she was looking behind.
He said he and PW1 came out of the vehicle and PW1 told the military officers to assist him to move Yabinta from the vehicle but they ignored his appeal. He added that it was himself and PW1 that took her out of the vehicle. He said the military then boarded the vehicle and left them there with the deceased.
He told the court he was arrested and taken to Manjai Police Station and left PW1 and the deceased there. He was asked by his lawyer whether it was the police who arrested him or the military. “Those that arrested me were wearing plain clothes so I don’t know whether they are the military or the police”, responded DW1. He told the court that the stoppage of his car did not cause the injury of Yabinta.
Under cross-examination by Sergeant Kolley, he told the court that he was hired by PW1 and Yabinta at Palma Rima to take them to Latrikunda. He was asked by the prosecution whether he failed to stop at the security check point. “I did not have a driving license that is the reason why I did not stop,” he replied.
The witness was asked whether he knows the punishment for unlicensed driving. He responded in the negative. He was asked again whether he equally knows failure to stop when required. “No”, said the witness. “Is it correct that failure to stop at the check point led the security to pursue you?” asked the prosecutor. The witness responded in the positive.
“You said when you stopped you saw a wound at the forehead of Yabinta as a result of gun shot?” asked the prosecutor. “Yes”, answered the witness. The witness was asked how many shots were fired. ”I don’t know how many were fired. “I put it to you that 3 warning shots were fired?”, insisted the prosecutor. “I still maintain my previous answer.
“Was that the first time the traffic police stopped you to check your vehicle?” Before the witness could answer the defence objected to this question arguing that it is character assassination and that it is irrelevant to the case. He further argued that the prosecution cannot ask the witness any question that will impeach on the character of his client.
The trial magistrate upheld the objection of the defence adding that the question will not help the court in making any decision. “I am putting it to you that your failure to stop at the check point led to the death of Yabinta?” said the prosecutor. The witness responded in the negative.
“I also put it to you that the shots were meant to disable the vehicle?” insisted the prosecution. The defence objected to this question, arguing that this question is an opinion. The presiding magistrate in his ruling upheld the objection of the defence, adding that the witness would not know what is in the mind of the officers. The witness was asked what his speed was when he was driving. He responded that he did not check but he was not driving fast.
At this juncture, lawyer Gomez told the court that this is the closure of their case. He further informed the court that he intends to file a written brief and that he wants to make it an open brief in court. He added that he will file it on the 18th of May.
The prosecution also told the court that they need 2 days to file their brief and that they may do it orally.
The case resumes on 21st May, 2015 at 2:30 for both written and oral briefs on points of law.