By Kemeseng Sanneh (Kexx)
Principal Magistrate Jabang has issued an order commanding the Director General of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency of The Gambia (DLEAG) and his Deputy to appear before him on 21 September 2023, after they defied his orders to release alleged drug dealers.
The detained alleged drug peddlers were Paulo Djabi, Nadine Pereira, MamaduNeto Djabi, and SecunaJabi. They were granted bail, but the DLEAG has since not complied with the court order to release them on bail.
They were first granted bail by the Bundung Magistrate’s Court but they were not released. The matter was transferred to the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court and still, the narcotic officers have not complied with the court directives.
Magistrate Jabang said the Director General and the Deputy Director General must appear before him to explain why they should not be cited for contempt of court. Magistrate Jabang restated his orders commanding the police to release the four (4) accused persons.
“The Gambia is a country governed by the rule of law and all individuals and institutions should abide by the principles of law and justice. The independence and protection of the judiciary as guaranteed by the Constitution, that government departments and agencies, including the DLEAG, should respect and adhere to the court’s orders,” Principal Magistrate Jabang said.
The court order against the director general and his subordinate was obtained through an ex-parte application seeking a court order for the immediate release of the accused persons from the custody of the police.
The motion was supported by an affidavit sworn to by Catherine Fatty, who serves as a legal clerk at Dandimayo Chambers. In her affidavit, she stated that the accused persons were detained for several days before they were arraigned in court on 4 September 2023. They were charged with 15 criminal counts and they all pleaded not guilty to all the offences.
The Bundung Magistrate’s Court on 12 September 2023 released them on bail, but immediately after leaving the courtroom, the accused persons were re-arrested and taken to an undisclosed location by the security operatives.
Fatty further explained that the accused persons were brought before the Kanifing Court on 13 September 2023 facing charges under the Drug Control Act and the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act, which they pleaded not guilty and were granted bail by the court after fulfilling the conditions of bail as ordered by the court.
She said despite having met the conditions of bail and with an order for release issued by the court, the Drug Law Enforcement Agency of the Gambia (DLEAG) insisted that the accused persons must accompany them to their headquarters to collect their belongings. The accused persons complied and went to the DLEAG head office together with their lawyers Lawyer Lamin S. Camara while Lawyer Sheriff M. Tambadou later joined them.
“However, the respondent’s officers raised objections and posed queries regarding the release order, claiming that it was not specifically addressed to the Director and interpreting it in a manner that obstructed the release of the accused individuals,” she said.
Fatty said after waiting for almost two hours, the Deputy Director informed Counsel Tambadou that the accused individuals would not be released and in response, counsel Tambedou stated that unless they were under arrest, they would all leave.
“The Deputy Director called Sheriff M. Tambadou, requesting that the accused individuals return to the DLEAG headquarters and delivered a stern warning. The Deputy Director also contacted Counsel L.S. Camara and issued a threat if the accused individuals failed to comply,” she said.
She further said as a result, Lawyer Lamin Camara advised the accused persons to surrender to the respondent (DLEAG) and they have remained in detention since then. She stated that the situation undermines the principles of the rule of law, demonstrates arbitrary action, and constitutes an infringement or abuse of the rights of the accused individuals as guaranteed by the law.
Principal Magistrate Jabang gave a background to the case before him. He said the accused persons, namely Paulo Djabi, Nadine Pereira, MamaduNetoDjabi, and SecunaJabi were arraigned before his court and they pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy, possession of prohibited drugs, and money laundering. Jabang added that the prosecuting officer for the DLEAG then made an application to transfer the case to the High Court due to jurisdictional issues and requested the remand of the accused persons. The defence objected to the request and the court determined that it had jurisdiction over the case.
He said the court granted bail to the accused persons after they fulfilled the conditions of bail and despite the court’s release order, the Deputy Director of the DLEAG refused to release the accused persons from custody.
In delivering his ruling on the application by the defence, Principal Magistrate Jabang ordered the DLEAG director general and his deputy to immediately release Paulo Djabi, Nadine Pereira, MamaduNetoDjabi, and SecunaJabi from custody. Additionally, he ordered both of them to appear before him on the next adjourned date to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court for disregarding the orders to release the accused persons on bail.
The process server of the court went to serve the director general and his deputy, but on arrival, the director general informed him that they had obtained a stay of execution order from the high court in relation to the Magistrate’s order for their release on bail.
The bailiffs of the court then informed the DG that the Kanifing court had not received any such decision from the High Court and that their mission was to execute the court’s order. After some arguments, the bailiffs decided to return to the Kanifing court to verify the DG’s claim about the stay of execution. Upon reaching the Kanifing court, they found that no such order had been related to the Magistrate’s Court. The bailiffs will today return to the DLEAG office to serve the director general and his deputy with the court order against them.