By Yankuba Jallow
The Gambia Court of Appeal will on 8th October deliver judgment in one of the appeal cases involving former Director General of NIA and others versus the State.
The intelligence chiefs were dissatisfied with three high court rulings against them and thus, brought it before the Court of Appeal seeking the appeals court to set-aside all the three rulings.
The case was last heard before the Banjul High Court on the 25th November 2019 and since then these people have been under detention at Mile 2.
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.
They are standing trial before the high court on numerous offences ranging from conspiracy to commit felony, assault causing serious bodily harm, murder and making false documents amongst others summing up to twenty-five criminal counts. The accused persons all denied any wrongdoing.
The State contracted five private lawyers in the persons of Lawyers Antouman AB Gaye, Rachel Y. Mendy, Lamin S. Camara, Yassin Senghore and Combeh Gaye to prosecute the matter. The long-standing trial has suffered several delays and the case has been stayed for nine months without trial.
The case before the high court was stayed by Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara, who is the trial judge in the case pending the hearing and determination of the appeals before the Court of Appeal.
The prosecution called thirty-five witnesses who have all testified in the case and closed their case but when it was the turn of the defence, some of the accused persons made a ‘no case submission’ which was not successful.
The defendants were called upon to open their defence, but the first accused person, Yankuba Badjie informed the court that he was not ready to open his defence pending the outcome of his appeal before the Court of Appeal and that the other accused persons could proceed with their defence. Then the private prosecutors representing the State objected and filed an application for stay of proceedings in the wake of the first accused person’s refusing to open his defence at that stage. The court in its ruling granted the order for stay of proceedings until the conclusion of the case in the Court of Appeal.
At the Court of Appeal, the briefs in the appeal against the order of stay of proceedings were adopted on Thursday, 27th August 2020 and the case has been adjourned for ruling on 8th October 2020. The consolidated appeal could not progress because the briefs of order have not yet been filed by the appellant who should file first.
In another appeal, the defence want the Court of Appeal to set-aside it’s the ruling turning down their application to bring five of the listed State witnesses who were not called by the prosecution. The defence lawyers want the five abandoned witnesses to be brought before the court so that they will have chance to cross-examine them. This was objected by the prosecution and in her ruling, Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara ruled in favour of the prosecution.
The arrest and prosecution of the accused persons was in relation to the alleged murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, a former youth leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the alleged torture of April 14, 2016, UDP demonstrators.