By Yankuba Jallow
The protracted criminal trial of former intelligence chiefs has suffered another setback following the absence of the eight accused person, Lamin Darboe.
Darboe’s legs broke after he fell down while working at Mile Two. He was electrocuted by an electric wire while he was working at Mile II, where he was detained. Before this setback, the case was stayed by the court following an application for stay of proceeding by the prosecution which was granted by the court. The stay was overruled by the Court of Appeal and the trial judge was ordered to resume hearings as it caused unnecessary delay to the accused persons. Since then, the case couldn’t proceed owing to the injury of the 8th accused person, Lamin Darboe.
Darboe together with Ex-Director of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and five others are facing 25 criminal charges including conspiracy to commit felony, assault causing serious bodily harm, murder and making false documents amongst others. The accused persons all denied any wrongdoing.
The accused persons before the high court are Yankuba Badjie, an ex-director of the NIA, Sheikh Omar Jeng, an ex-director of operations at the NIA, Baboucar Sallah, Haruna Suso, Tamba Mansareh, Lamin Darboe, and Lamin Lang Sanyang. The 2nd accused person, Louise Gomez, an ex-deputy director of the said agency, died whilst under the custody of the State, during the course of this trial. However, Yusupha Jammeh, the 6th accused person was acquitted by the Court upon the State’s application for his acquittal for lack of evidence to continue with prosecuting him.
On Monday, 9th November 2020 the case was called for mention and for the defence to open their case, but they couldn’t proceed owing to Darboe’s absence.
Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara asked prosecution lawyer Antouman AB Gaye whether he came with the medical report, but the senior legal practitioner responded in the negative. He promised to bring it on the next adjourned date.
Lawyer Christopher E. Mene for Yankuba Badjie said he cannot comprehend why the medical report couldn’t be produced for weeks. Barrister Mene said the authorities have failed to produce the medical report and are not producing the accused person before the court.
It was at this point that Yankuba Badjie, the ex-DG NIA informed the court that Lamin Darboe actually came with them to the court complex, but was surprised why he was not produced before the court.
Lawyer Kebba Baldeh from the National Agency for Legal Aid (NALA) who is the representative of Mr Darboe said he is not aware.
Commissioner Lamin Sowe of the Gambia Prison Services said they came together with Darboe to the court complex, but took him back to Mile 2.
“We brought Lamin Darboe in the prisons ambulance at the request of his legal representative (Kebba Baldeh). The Counsel told us he (Darboe) is not fit to appear before the court; that we should leave him inside the ambulance,” Commissioner Sowe said.
Sowe said they came with a wheelchair in the ambulance and would have used it to bring the accused person in court, but defence counsel Baldeh was the one who told them not to bring him to court.
“He has been taken back to Mile 2. Darboe is someone who cannot walk by himself. He cannot stand. He was on the ambulance bed,” Sowe said.
When asked why he did that, Counsel Baldeh said his office is constraint especially with human resources and mobility. He detailed that all the past weeks he couldn’t visit Mr Darboe at Mile 2 and it was the reason why he requested him to be brought to court.
“It was not Darboe’s wish to come. I couldn’t go to Mile 2 to visit him and this was why I told the prison officers to bring him so that I can see him. When he came, I looked at him and I realised that he is not fit to appear before the court,” Baldeh said.
Justice Sillah-Camara cautioned Barrister Baldeh that what he did was risky because he is not the right person to determine whether or not the accused person was fit to come to court. She opined that the Barrister should have endeavoured to go to Mile 2 rather than bringing the sick accused person to court just to see him.
The matter was adjourned to the 23rd November 2020 at 1 pm with the anticipation that the medical report would be produced by the State.
Sheikh Omar Jeng is erstwhile Director of Operations at the NIA. He has indicated his readiness to open his defence in the case.