By Lamin Sanyang
The Government of the Gambia was yesterday, Wednesday 16 July, faced with a lawsuit filed by the lawyer of one Mr. Momodou Sowe, an ex-employee of State House who has been detained at the State Central Prison for almost two years without trial.
The suit was mentioned before Justice Mikhailu Abdullah of the Criminal Division of the Banjul High Court.
When the case was mentioned, Lawyer Sagarr Jahateh announced her appearance for the applicant (Momodou Sowe) while the State was represented by Mr. SH Barkun, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with Olimatou Danso and A M Yusuf. The applicant was not present in court.
In the meantime, Lawyer Jahateh made an objection for the appearance of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) saying he cannot appear in civil matters, but only in criminal matters as provided by the Constitution. She referred the court to section 85 of the Constitution and read out the following:
“ The Director of Public Prosecutions shall have power in any case in which he or she considers it desirable to do so, and subject to the approval of the Attorney General-
(a) to initiate and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court for an offence against the law of The Gambia
(b) to take over and continue any criminal proceeding that has been instituted by any other person or authority;
(c) to discontinue, at any stage before judgement is delivered, any criminal proceeding instituted or undertaken by himself or herself or any other person or authority.”
She argued that what they have is a miscellaneous application dealing with fundamental constitutional rights while the powers of the (DPP) are limited to only criminal matters.
At this juncture, the (DPP) applied for an adjournment arguing that he was not expecting the ‘flimsy’ application made by the lawyer for the applicant. He said he was caught by surprise and that he needs time to reply which was objected to by the applicant’s lawyer. She submitted in her objection that the matter is of urgency as the applicant is languishing at the Mile II Prisons but her objection was overruled.
“I am applying for an interim order for the applicant to be produced before the next adjourned date. I have prison officers who can confirm to the court that the applicant is detained at the Mile II Central Prisons,” said Lawyer Jahateh.
She was asked by the court whether it was mentioned in the affidavit that the applicant is substantially detained at Mile II Central Prisons which she answered in the affirmative. She referred the court to a particular paragraph of the affidavit which stated that the applicant has been held incommunicado at the State Central Prison for almost two years.
Lawyer Jahateh made a formal application for the applicant to be produced by the State in the next adjourned date because he is entitled to appear despite his lawyer is representing him. She drew the attention of the court to a particular section of the court order dealing with substantial justice with all matters in court. She argued that the case at hand is about the violation of the fundamental constitutional rights of a Gambian citizen.
“There is no case more important than this one,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, the trial judge said he would adjourn the case for the DPP to reply on his competency to appear in the case. He said he cannot grant the order for the State to produce the applicant till he hears the response of the State. Subsequently, the case was adjourned till Tuesday 31 July 2014.
At the time of his arrest, Mr Momodou Sowe was employed as a protocol officer at the State House, Banjul.