By Nelson Manneh
Justice Amina Saho Ceesay of the Banjul High Court has yesterday adjourned the criminal trial involving the state and the eight top executive members of the three years ‘Jotna’ movement.
Prior to adjourning the case, the state Prosecutor Lawyer Patrick Gomez submitted that the case is from the lower court and the state Prosecution Office has just received the case file from the Office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) on Monday, the 3rd of January 2020.
When the case was called before Justice Amina Saho Ceesay of the Banjul High Court, Lawyer Patrick Gomes announced his appearance for the state while Lawyers Rachel Y. Mendy, L.S Camara, B.S Touray, L.J Darboe, A. Fatty, B. Badjie, I. Jallow and A. Jarju represented the accused persons.
The accused persons in the criminal trial are Abdou Njie, Ebrima Kitim Jarju, Sheriffo Sonko, Haji Sawuneh, Fanta Mballow, Karim Touray, Yankuba Darboe and Mutarr Ceesay.
Lawyer P. Gomez who appeared for the state sought for the court’s indulgence to adjourn the case to enable the state Prosecuting Office to review the case, stating that the file was just submited to them just recently, but this line of submission didn’t go down well with the team of defence Counsels.
Rachel Y. Mendy a defence Counsel argued that there is nothing before the court warranting for an adjournment as such adjournment shouldn’t be accepted unless if they continue to deny the accused persons their liberty.
“The accused persons have been in custody since the 26th of January 2020 and section 24 of the 1997 constitution has availed the accused person for a fair trial,” she said.
Counsel R.Y Mendy submitted that the state knows clearly that when the accused persons are properly charged, they should be arraigned before the high court and not the lower court.
She further argued that taking them to the lower court showed that they are not ready to proceed with the case.
Lawyer R.Y Mendy, however, argued that based on this aforementioned reason, the defence would apply for bail to be granted to the accused persons pending their proper arraignment at the high court.
Lawyer R.Y Mendy said the offences levelled against the accused persons are bailable offences.
The lead defence Counsel referred the court to a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Henry Gabriel against the State where bail was granted to the convict in a manslaughter case.
“The accused persons are Gambians and do not intend to abscond the jurisdiction,” she said.
She referred the court to section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code which she said is no longer applicable in this case.
In response to the submission made by the defence counsel, the State Prosecuting Officer Patrick Gomez referred the court to section 62 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code stating that going by the provision, it is clear that there is indeed a charge before the court against the accused persons and the matter is transferred.
The State Attorney further submitted that the third count charged is a capital offence which he argued is not a bailable offence and that the accused persons should be denied bail
Replying on point of law, the defence Counsel argued that section 62 of the CPC is not applicable in this case but rather section 208 (a) and further cited section 175 (b) of the CPC to back her arguments.
She concluded that bail is at the discretion of the court and urged the court to grant bail in favour of the accused persons.
The trial Judge after hearing the submissions and arguments of both parties adjourned the case till Thursday 6th February 2020 at 12.30 for the ruling.
Readers could recall that a trial magistrate at the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court has remanded the Chairman and other members of the 3 Years ‘Jotna’ Movement at the Mile II after referring their matter before the high court of Banjul.
Magistrate P. Sarr of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court made this ruling following an intense argument between the prosecuting officer and the defence lawyer.
Superintendent M.D Mballow made an application for the matter to be transferred to the high court because the court lacks the jurisdiction to try count 3 which deals with rioters demolishing structures.
The Police Superintendent submitted that counts 1 and 2 attract imprisonment of 1 and 5 years respectively while count 3 attracts life imprisonment.
Lawyer Lamin S. Camara, defence counsel commenced his submission with the following statements: “I like the argument of my learned friend. Yes, the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the case. So why do you bring us here? I applaud the argument of my learned friend, but I bet to disagree with him.”