Kebba Jeffang reporting from Mansakonko High Court
Four witnesses on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, testified at the Mansakonko High Court in the trial of 11 accused persons charged with alleged involvement in the Westfield protest on April 14, 2016. The witnesses include a PIU officer and investigators.
As the four witnesses gave their testimonies, all the 11 accused persons chose to remain silent throughout the court proceeding without cross examining any of them.
When the matter was called, the state was represented by A.M Yusuf and A. Bah whilst the defendants had no representation in the proceeding.
The accused persons, who were initially 25 in number, are now reduced to 11 after the State released 13 of them that committed themselves to non -participation in any demonstration in future.
The remaining accused persons include Lamin Sonko, Modou Touray, Lansana Beyai, Lamin Marong, Alhajie Fatty, Nogoi Njie, Fatoumatta Jawara, Fatou Camara, Kafu Bayo, Ebrima Jabang and Modou Ngum.
Testifying as the third prosecution witness (PW3), Sherifo Ceesay said he lives in Busumbala and is attached to Kanifing Police Intervention Unit. He said he recognised all the accused persons in the courtroom and that they were known to him on the 14th day of April, 2016 when there was a problem which led to their arrest before being taken to PIU base in Kanifing. He said he was among the arresting officers.
“It was on the 14th of April, 2016 around 14:45 to 15:00hrs when I was on standby at Kanifing PIU. We had an emergency call and we boarded the truck to Westfield. Upon arrival, we found a large group of people with their banners, whistles, Public Address System (PA system) advocating what they wrote on their banners. The messages on the banners are, ‘Why borders are closed? ‘Gambians are hungry’, ‘Yahya must go, enough is enough,’‘We need electoral reform’, ‘No 5th term for dictator and the whistles were blowing,’” said PW3.
He said their commander immediately came down from the vehicle and asked them whether they have a permit but no permit was shown. The command warmed them to disperse peacefully and go about their lawful businesses but they were still there and after some time our commander warned them again in different languages but they insisted not to leave, he said.
“Our commander ordered us to disperse them, some of them were arrested and we seized their banners, P.A system and their whistles were taken from them. We then escorted them back to our base in Kanifing PIU and handed over everything to our commander,” Ceesay testified.
The witness said he can identify the said materials if they are shown to him by the prosecution because among the materials were white flags written with red markers, the body of the P.A system is white with a blue mouth piece while the whistles are many and in different colours.
The said materials were shown to him in court and he identified them. The state counsel then applied to tender the said materials as evidence in court.
The trial Judge Justice Abi then called the accused each by their names and asked them if they had any objection to the tendering of the items. However, each of the accused persons remained silent when asked.
The judge therefore ruled that “from the 1st to the 11th accused, they were all called upon and asked if they had any objection to the tendering of the items but they all remained mute. I rule that they have no objection to the tendering of the items and they are accordingly admitted and marked in evidence as exhibits.”
The trial judge then again called all the accused persons by their names accordingly and asked them if they had any questions for the witnesses but they all remained silent again.
Justice Abi remarked, “I hereby rule that they have no questions to ask, so the witness is hereby discharged.”
Lamin N. Jammeh, a police officer attached to the Fraud Squad unit at police headquarters in Banjul as an investigator, testifying as PW4, said on the 19th and 21st April, 2016, he was assigned to record the statements of Lansana Beyai, Lamin Marong and Fatou Camara. He said he cautioned them one after the other.
He added that he brought out the cautionary form and read out the cautionary wordings to the accused persons in the language they understood. He said he asked them if he could record their statements for them or whether they can record them by themselves. He added that he was allowed to record their statements and they narrated their own side of the story which he wrote down. He said he read them over to them until they were satisfied; they then thumb printed the statements and he endorsed them.
The purported statements were shown to him in court and he identified them. The prosecution thereafter applied to tender the statements in court.
The accused were then asked if they have any objection to the tendering of the said statements but they remained silent. The documents were tendered in court and marked in evidence as exhibits without objection.
The trial judge again asked them if they had any questions for the witness but they again remained silent and the witness was discharged.
Bakary Darboe, PW5 is a police officer attached to the Major Crime Unit at the police headquarters in Banjul. He said he recorded the statement of Nogoi Njie. He said the accused person allowed him to record her statement which he did. He adduced that he read over the statement to her until she was satisfied and then she thumb printed.
At this juncture, the accused person was asked by the trial judge if she has any objection to the tendering of the documents but she remained silent. The statement was then tendered in court and marked in evidence as exhibits.
All the accused persons were then asked if they had any questions for the witness but they remained silent.
Testifying as the 6th prosecution witness, Saikou Keita also a police officer said he recorded the statements of Modou Touray, Ebrima Jabang and Modou Ngum.
As the other accused did, these three witnesses remained silent when asked if they had any objection or any question for the witness. The statements were admitted in evidence and the witness was discharged.
The eleven accused are charged with 7 counts of unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with vehicles, holding a procession without a permit, disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession and conspiracy.
The matter at this juncture was adjourned till today Thursday, 23rd June, 2016 at 10am to hear from the remaining 3 witnesses.