By Yankuba Jallow
A police witness in the 3 Years Jotna criminal case on Wednesday said the 26th January 2020 protesters were hostile and violated the permit issued to them by the Police.
Corporal Abdoulie Jallow, the second prosecution witness in this criminal trial said he works with the Gambia Police Force.
The accused persons are; Abdou Njie, the chairman of the movement, Ebrima Kitim Jarju, Sheriffo Sonko, Hagi Suwaneh (the spokesperson), Fanta Mballow, Karim Touray, Yankuba Darboe (alias Yanks Darboe) and Muctarr Ceesay.
The accused persons were first arraigned at the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court on the 29th January 2020 on three criminal counts, namely unlawful Assembly, rioting after proclamation and rioters demolishing structures. The matter was transferred to the High Court because the lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The charge of rioters demolishing structures was dropped and the accused persons were granted bail by the High Court.
On the charge of unlawful assembly, the accused persons are alleged to have jointly and unlawfully taken part in an unlawful assembly on the 26th January 2020.
On the second charge, rioting after proclamation, the accused persons are alleged to have continued with their protest by disregarding proclamation made by Deputy Superintendent of Police Alagie Jallow in the name of the President of the Republic to disperse peacefully.
He said he was in mufti on both 3 Years Jotna protest days – 16 December 2019 and 26th January 2020. He informed the court that he had a team of three people who were filming the protest, making some audio visual recordings and sending the information to the police headquarters to his authorities. Two of his team members were from the Anti-Crime Unit and the other was from the Police headquarters. Jallow works at the Police Headquarters.
In explaining how he did his work, the young policeman said he acted like a journalist and was doing some interviews with some of them. Jallow said he has video tapes showing the accused persons in the protest and what they were doing and saying while the protest was on. He added that he used a drone and a mobile phone to do his work.
“I was taking pictures and was also filming them. I was communicating with my authorities through our CUG [closed user group] for free. All along they never knew I was a policeman”, he said.
He said one of his videos during the December 16 protest featured the Chairman of the Movement Abdou Njie and he was quoted saying their protest was peaceful and they were out to hand a petition to the Government’s Spokesperson, Ebrima G. Sankareh. He detailed that Yankuba Darboe renowned as Lawyer Yanks Darboe was on a vehicle with a musical set using an amplifier saying the 3 year promise by the President should be honoured and he ‘must step down’.
“He [Yanks Darboe] was calling the name of the President while speaking on the vehicle”, the witness said.
He said on the 26th January 202, he arrived at the Y-Junction which is not far from Sting Corner where the protest was supposed to start. He informed the court that he arrived at the area designated for the protest before the Chairman of the Movement, Abdou Njie.
“I was there with the drone sending information to the necessary authorities”, the witness said.
He said after sometime crowds of people began coming including Abdou Njie, the Chairman of 3 Years Jotna.
“I wanted to have a small interview with him [Njie], but he told me he was just arriving”, the witness said.
The police corporal said Abdou Njie left the Y-Junction and went to the Sting Corner to meet some of the protesters there asking them to come to the Y-Junction because it was the designated place for the protest.
“They [the protesters] refused and Njie left them and returned to the Y-Junction”, Jallow said.
The witness testified that some of the protesters pushed the police barrier placed between Sting Corner and the Y-Junction.
“Some of the protesters were insulting. Some were saying the President must step down; that they will be the ones who will remove him”, Jallow said.
He testified that the protesters were saying they were ready to take on the police and were ready to get to Banjul.
“I was recording all these happenings as they occur”, Jallow said.
He said the Police Commissioner for Kanifing Division Pateh Jallow and the Police Operations Commander approached the leaders of the protest group for negotiation.
He said when Njie came out of the crowd, he was informed by the police chiefs that his people have failed the permit; that they should be at the area designated for the demonstration. Njie was urged to call on his people to adhere to the permit.
“Njie turned to the people and was talking to them, but they were not listening to him”, the witness said.
He said at around 12 o’clock in the afternoon the PIU deployment came. He explained to the court that it was at this point that Njie was asked to disperse with his people.
“They were given 30 minutes to disperse peacefully”, the witness said.
“He [Abdou Njie] told Pateh that he was not going to go anywhere because he is a Gambian and anything that will happen should happen, but he was not going to move”, the witness said.
Jallow said at this point, the first proclamation was made that their permit was forfeited and they should all disperse because their gathering was unlawful.
“Do you know what necessitated the proclamation”, asked Lawyer Abdul Aziz Saho for the Attorney General.
“The crowd was hostile”, the witness answered.
The case was adjourned to 9th December 2020 at 9:30 am for the continuation of hearing of PW2 (Corporal Jallow) and other witnesses in the case.
Earlier Superintendent Alagie Jallow the Court he has been in the PIU since 1995. He said the protest began at 11 am, adding on the protest day there was fire everywhere. He said the different negotiations that were held on the day of the protest failed at the instance of the protesters who were found at non-designated areas for the protest. He said the negotiations were between the Commissioner for Kanifing Division and Commissioner of Operations of the Gambia Police Force with some other police officers who he does not know. He said three different proclamations were made requesting the protesters to disperse, but they refused to adhere to the instructions given. He said between each of the proclamation a space of 15 minutes was given to give them reasonable time to disperse peacefully and still the protesters refused to disperse.
“It was necessary to give them this time to enable them disperse peacefully. It was necessary and reasonable”, Jallow said.
“Is it not odd that you don’t know them?” the Lawyer asked.
“In fact, I am not working with them [because] I am at the PIU and they are not”, Jallow retorted.
The police officer said he was the commanding officer on the day of the 3 Years Jotna protest held on the 26th January 2020. He said the protest was chaotic and fire was lit at different areas by the protesters.
He testified that some of the protesters coming from Serrekunda end and heading to Serrekunda and heading to Sting Corner were stopped by general duty policemen and women.
He said his men on the ground were deployed later to block the protesters from getting to Banjul. He adduced that the protesters were saying they want to get to the State House; that the President must step down.
Lawyer E. Sanneh for the accused person asked the witness if Sting Corner was not a route linking the Y-Junction, but the witness said there were other routes to get to the Junction.
“There is nothing in the permit that prohibits the protesters from getting to Sting Corner and to take a bend to the area designated for the protest”, Lawyer Sanneh said.
“Yes,” the witness answered.
The witness said there were about 2000 protesters adding some of them were with charms.
“Do you believe in charm?” the Lawyer asked.
“Yes, I belief in charms,” Jallow replied, adding “I was in fear when I saw them with the Jujus.”
“Was it out of fear that you called your men to come and disperse the protesters?” Lawyer Sanneh asked.
“It was because they violated the permit,” the witness said.
“I put it to you that the instruction was given out of fear that you violently disperse the protesters”, Sanneh said.
“No, it was because they did not adhere to the permit,” the police officer replied.
Jallow said the protesters were found at different places outside the designated area for the protest contrary to the permit issued to them.
“Is it correct to say the security personnel were overwhelmed?” The Lawyer asked.
“Not at all”, Jallow retorted.
Jallow said said the protesters refused to disperse after three different proclamations were made ordering them to disperse.
Superintendent Jallow identified the 1st and 2nd accused persons before the court. He said he did not see any of the defendants at GTTI, but insisted they were responsible for the fire.
“Is it correct that other people were there who could have caused the fire?” Lawyer Sanneh asked.
“I will not agree with that”, Jallow said.
“Did the 1st and 2nd accused person talk to you directly?” asked the Lawyer.
“No”, Jallow answered.
Jallow said before the protest day, he has never met the two.
“Where did you find them?” asked the Lawyer.
“I found them at the Y-Junction after Sting Corner”, the witness said.
“The two were not there”, the Lawyer said.
“No, they were there. We have a scientific support – we have videos and audios”, Jallow said.
He said the permit was for the protest to commence at the Y-Junction to the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
Jallow said the protest was organised by the accused persons and therefore, they were responsible for things that happened afterwards. The Lawyer told him the accused persons cannot be held responsible for things done by others.