The trial involving thirteen men from Babylon village, that has been going on for almost one year now, has finally reached its climax after four more defence witnesses testified on August 7, 2014 thus closing the defence’s case at the Brikama Magistrates’ Court.
The court has thus announced that briefs will be adopted on 25 August 2014.
Lamin Bakary Jarju, the Alkalo of the village, and his twelve co-accused persons are being tried by Principal Magistrate Dayoh M. Small Dago. They are facing four counts including conspiracy to commit felony and arson and which they all deny.
When the case was called in a crowded court room, Chief Inspector Bubacarr Camara announced his appearance for the state, whilst Lawyer Borry S. Touray represented all the accused persons.
Testifying before the court as defence witness eleven (DW11), Mr. Sarjo Sohna said he is a driver staying in Babylon. He said he went to attend Koriteh prayer in his home village of Misraba Mariama in Kantora District, Upper River Region. He said on the 19 August, 2013, he came back with his mother and because they had arrived late they continued to their family compound in Tallinding where they spent the night.
“I was to attend a court case on the 20 August, 2013 that involved me, Sutay Ceesay, Nuha Saidykhan and Sarjo Badjie. While I went to Brikama Magistrates’ Court, I was told by the prosecutor, Chief Inspector Camara to join the other accused persons. I never had any personal problem with Francis Mendy much more a land dispute. It is not true that we have a land problem because I never knew him before. I don’t even know my co-accused persons except two of them who are Sulayman Colley and Lamin Jarju. It is not true that I conspired with anyone to cut 275 cashew trees or burn them into charcoal. It is a mere allegation against me,” he told the court.
Under cross examination, he denied that he was at large that was why he was asked to join the others when he arrived. He reiterated that he does not know Francis Mendy and that he had never had a problem with him. He said he had a problem with Alieu Badara Ceesay which led him to be part of the accused persons.
Mr. Modou Lamin Conateh from Brufut was the twelfth defence witness (DW12). He told the court that he is a security officer working at Kombo Beach Hotel. He said he was arrested on 14 August, 2013 in Babylon while visiting a friend called Omar Ceesay.
He told the court that while standing at the entrance of a shop, he saw people coming.
“I saw different security officers coming towards me from the vehicle. They asked me my name and I told them. They also asked where I live and I told them that I am not from Babylon. This was the time their operation commander Jagne instructed me to board the vehicle. I insisted at first, but later complied because they were about to beat me up. We then proceeded to the Alkalo’s compound where Burama Badjie was also arrested. This was how we were taken to Holgam where I was detained,” he said.
Mr. Conateh further testified that he does not know Francis Mendy and has never been to Babylon before in his entire life. He adduced that he has never known any of his co accused persons before much more to conspire with them to cause any damage.
During cross examination, the witness (also an accused person) told the court that he only saw Francis Mendy when he came to court. He denied any wrong doing.
Mr. Kebba Njie, DW13 and the 9th accused person, told the court that he is a van driver from Bundung in the Kanifing Municipality. He said he transferred to Babylon on the 20th May, 2013 upon the request of his uncle (now abroad) for him to stay with his (uncle’s) wife in his compound. He added that his uncle bought a vehicle which he was asked to use to run some errands for the wife. He said on 14 August, 2013 when he came from a trip to Seleti, a border village, he parked the vehicle at the gate and started washing it. He adduced that while washing the vehicle he noticed that someone pointed a gun at him and were asking him whether he is from that village and whether he knows the Alkalo. He said he responded to them that he knows the Alkalo, but that the Alkalo does not know him.
“He asked me to board the vehicle and I responded that I cannot do that because I don’t know why I should do so. He told me that if I don’t board the vehicle, he will shoot me because the order is from State House. I was forced to enter the vehicle and we departed. From there any youth who was seen was arrested. I only know Sulayman Colley and that was in Kafunting. I have never been to the farm in question until the court visited the place,” he said.
He said he does not know Francis much more his farm. He denied committing any conspiracy.
Under cross examination, Njie denied any wrongdoing.
Basaikou Ceesay, the second accused person and the fourteenth defence witness (DW14), said he stays in Babylon and was a former member of the Gambia Armed Forces.
“I was arrested in Babylon on 14 August, 2014,” he said. He added that he was in his compound when he saw police intervention personnel, soldiers and other security outfits with their guns. “This was so strange to me and that I went to see what was happening there. I found their vehicles stuck in the mud. I was called by Jagne and I went to answer. He asked me whether I know Lamin. I said to him yes, and he told me to wait. I asked him why. He told me that it is the President’s order that Lamin and his friends in Babylon should be arrested,” said Ceesay.
He further adduced that it was at this moment that his phone rang and he was slapped. He said his wife was there to take the phone from him and she was also slapped on her face until she collapsed. He said the operation commander Jagne hand cuffed his hand to that of his wife. He pointed out that he has never been part of any group that did something wrong as alleged in the charge sheet. He added that no prosecution witness testified that he was part of the group that conspired to fell 275 cashew trees and burn them into charcoal.
“I don’t know Francis Mendy and he also has never known me. I have never had any land dispute with him. The allegation against me is unfounded and just a mere story. I have never given a statement since the time of my arrest up to now and I have not seen any of my co-accused persons giving statements,” he concluded.
Under cross examination, he denied any wrongdoing.
At this juncture, the defence counsel, Mr Touray, said they still have some witnesses but that he would close the case at this point. He added that he needs seven days to file an address which will be on the 14th August, 2014.
The prosecutor also said he needs four days to reply to the address filed by the defence. He is expected to do so by the 20th August, 2014.
The Principal Magistrate Dayoh Dago announced that after the adoption of the briefs on the 25th August, judgment will take place on the 1st September, 2014.