Alleged Ring Leader Opens Defence in Coup Trial

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By Kemeseng Sanneh (KEXX)

Lance Corporal Sanna Fadera, the alleged ring leader of the foiled December 2022 coup plot, has commenced giving evidence before the Banjul high court.

Fadera testified before Justice Basiru V.P. Mahoney, a judge of the Gambia Court of Appeal sitting as a high court judge. He was authorised by the Chief Justice to hear the case.

The accused persons are (Lance Corporal) Sanna Fadera, (Sergeant) Gibril Darboe, (Corporal) Ebrima Sannoh, (Corporal) Omar Njie, and (Sub-Inspector) Fabakary Jawara. The charges include two counts of treason, two counts of concealment of treason and incitement to mutiny. Corporal Omar Njie has been acquitted and discharged by the court after succeeding in his no case to answer submission.

Counsels Lamin Jarju, Muhammed B. Sowe, and M. Sanyang appeared for the State while Lawyers Lamin S. Camara and F. Jaiteh represented Sanna Fadera.

Lance Corporal Fedara testified that he has been working for 12 years at the Gambia National Navy. Fadera attended Kwenala Upper Basic School and then Muslim High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry.

The alleged ringleader dismisses the charges against him, saying he “had no intention of overthrowing the Gambia Government”. He said the allegations against him are false. He denied holding discussions with anyone regarding the purported coup.

The testimony of Captain Mamat Jobe indicates that he received a call at about 10 am on 26 November 2022, from Lance Corporal Sanna Fadera, who proposed to visit him at his residence in Farato around 7 pm. Jobe testified that Fadera only came after 11 pm, after his wife and children were already asleep.

“He (Sanna Fadera) told me, Oga, my purpose of coming here is to salvage the country,” Jobe said, adding, “I told him what do you mean and he (Sanna Fadera) told me he wants to overthrow the Government.”

Jobe, as an officer, he informed Sanna Fadera that he should desist from such act as it is not appropriate for a soldier to embark on such motives.

During the discussion, Jobe said, Sanna Fadera produced a document which was the operational plan of the coup.

“As I was reading through the operational plan, I was trembling – I told him you can’t do this. It is a serious offence,” Jobe said.

Jobe said the purported plan indicates that the coup plotters wanted to use battalions in their plan and Sanna Fadera identified himself as the ringleader.

Fadera said he knew Captain Mamut Jobe during their basic military training at the Fajara barracks, but said nothing had transpired between them in connection with the case before the court. He added that he met Jobe at the University of The Gambia.

Speaking on Captain Jobe’s testimony, Sanna Fadera dismisses the account, saying “it is false”.

Captain Jobe said Sanna Fadera informed him that he was going to Farafenni to meet one Sergeant Dawda Coma to discuss the coup plan with him and would come back to update him.

Sanna, in his reaction, said he does not know Sergeant Koma and has never spoken to him. He testified that he knows Sergeant Karamo, a military training instructor.

Fadera’s lawyer, L.S Camara, led his client in examining the testimony of Karamo Jatta, alleging that he has an audio recording of their conversation and the photos of the operational plan. Testifying further, Sanna refuted the claims of Karamo Jatta.

Exhibit P11 (operational plan), which Karamo Jatta said was prepared by Fadera, was shown to the witness. Sanna Fadera denied being the architect of the document (operational plan) saying “it was the first time” he saw the document. When asked whether he had any input in the document as alleged by Karamo, Sanna said he did not have any input in the document, as such works are prepared by the high command.

He said he was not in charge of the deployment of commanders as planned in the operational plan, and could not move a single commander. He stated it is only the top ranks that can move commanders.

Fadera, in his response to the testimony of Karamo Jatta that he (Sanna Fadera) planned to mobilise the soldiers and officers and arrange for 200 cars to overthrow the government, said the allegation is false. He denied ever travelling to Farafenni to discuss the coup.

Fadera further denied the testimony of Karamo Jatta that on 18 December 2022, they met at Brikama Jah Oil and then drove to Kafuta where they discussed the coup together with Ebrima Sannoh (2nd accused person) and Ebrima Baldeh.

Fadera testified that during the period of interrogation, an audio was brought by the panel of investigation with the claim that it was his conversation with Karamo regarding the coup plot. He said the audio was not audible when it was played. He added that he never had a discussion with Karamo Jatta regarding the coup. Jatta alleges that Sanna Fadera said if the coup succeeded, he would transform the army and conduct arrests on the Chief of Defense Staff, the Inspector General of Police and Ministers. Fadera emphasised that he never had such a discussion with Karamo Jatta.

Fadera said he did not discuss about using the weapons of the 30th December attackers with Jatta, because he has no idea about those weapons. He added that he never had a discussion with Karamo on 18 December 2022 and that he did not have a discussion with Karamo either on the phone or face-to-face.

He was shown Exhibit P9 and was asked whose number is 2048550. He responded in the affirmative that it was his mobile number and he admitted to making calls to Fabakary Jawara (5th accused person).

On Barra Touray’s testimony that Sanna told him that he wanted to overthrow the government and wanted him to convince soldiers at the Yundum Barracks to join him in the initiative, Sanna Fadera said since he left the camp for the navy, he has never seen Barra. He testified that he used to speak to Barra, but not in connection with a coup plot.

When asked whether he knew one Yaya Manjang (PW 2), the marabout from Busra, Sanna said he had never met Yaya Manjang before until the day he testified in court. He added that he never sent anyone to the marabout contrary to what the marabout claimed.

The matter was adjourned for the continuation of hearing on Monday at 14:00