By Rohey Jadama
The criminal trial involving Dr. Alasan Bah, Mr. Ebrima Jawara, Mr. Sulayman Manneh, Mr. Lamin Fatajo and Mr. Momodou Lamin Mass, who were all working for the Rural Finance Project (RFP) under the Ministry of Agriculture, did not proceed yesterday, 15 February, 2016 before Justice Simeon Ateh Abi of Banjul High Court because of the non filing of the indictment by the state.When the case was called, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hadi Saleh Barkun appeared for the state, while the accused persons were represented by Lawyer Hawa Sisay-Sabally for Dr. Bah, Borry S. Touray for Mr. Fatajo and Mr. Mass and Lawyer Conteh for Mr. Jawara. Mr. Manneh and his defence lawyer were not present in court.
“My lord, the bill of indictment is almost ready and it will be filed in a couple of hours and we are applying for an adjournment,” said the DPP.
Responding to the DPP, lawyer Sisay-Sabally said she hopes that this will be the last time the case will be adjourned because of the lack of an indictment. She stressed that they really need to proceed.
At this stage, Justice Abi adjourned the case to 22 February, 2016 at 2pm for plea. He further ruled that the state should endeavor to file the bill of indictment before the next adjourned date.
It could be recalled that prosecutors presented a ten count indictment against the five agriculture officials ranging from alleged stealing by person in the public service, abuse of office, stealing by clerk or servant, theft and four economic crimes related counts at the lower court in Banjul on the 7 September, 2015.
However, all the five accused persons pleaded not guilty as charged and were consequently remanded in prison custody pending their appearance at the superior court (High Court) which has the jurisdiction to hear economic crimes.
When they appeared at the high court, they were granted bail by Justice Muhammed Balarabe but its conditions could not be fulfilled thus compelling the defence lawyers to apply for a review before Justice Simeon Ateh Abi of the High Court. The five accused persons were eventually released on bail.