By Yankuba Jallow
The Police have charged United Democratic Party’a Dodou Kassa Jatta on six criminal counts. Jatta denied any wrongdoing as he pleaded not guilty.
The matter came before Magistrate Mben Faal of Kanifing Magistrate’s Court. Superintendent Keita appeared for the Inspector General of Police while Lawyer Yankuba Darboe appeared for the accused person, Jatta.
The charges were all read to Jatta. On count 1, which is Rioting after proclamation contrary to section 74 of the Criminal Code, Dodou Kassa Jatta on or about the 1st of December 2022 at Bakau in the Kanifing Municipality engaged in a riot and failed to disperse after a proclamation was made he continue to take part.
Jatta is charged on count 2 with preventing or obstructing the making of proclamation contrary to Section 75 of the Criminal Code. According to the particulars of the offence, Jatta on or about the 1st December 2022 at Bakau in the Kanifing Municipality forcibly prevented or obstructed the making of the proclamation and continued to take part in the riot or assembly thereby committed an offence.
On count 3, Jatta is charged with Rioters injuring buildings, machinery, etc contrary to section to section 77 of the Criminal Code. According to the particulars of the offence, Dodou Kassa Jatta on or about the 1st of December 2022 at Bakau in the Kanifing municipality took part being riotously assembled together, where he unlawfully damage items: a television set, office furniture window glasses, the corrugated iron sheets, thereby committed an offence.
On count 4, Jatta is charged with Threatening violence contrary to section 84 of the Criminal Code. According to the particulars of the offense, Mr. Dodou Kassa Jatta on the same day and place with intent to intimidate, insult or annoy the Police Intervention Officers on duty at Bakau Police Station threatened to kill them if they failed to produce the suspect under custody to be killed.
Jatta is also charged with common nuisance on count 5 contrary to section contrary to section 160 of the Criminal Code. According to the particulars of the offense, Jatta on the same day and place without excuse or legal authority caused injury, danger, and annoyance causing inconvenience to the public by taking part in an illegal demonstration which posed danger and destruction to the Bakau police station and other properties.
On the 6th and final charge, Jatta was charged with being idle and disorderly contrary to section 166 of the Criminal Code. According to the particulars of the offence, Jatta on the same day and place conducted in a disorderly manner in a public place likely to cause a breach of the peace by engaging in a riot.
The charges were read to the accused person and interpreted to him in Mandinka. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
After the plea taking exercise, police prosecutor Superintendent Keita sought an adjournment to enable them prepare for the case and bring witnesses. He also asked the Court to keep the accused person under custody. He added that he knew the charges can be bail but he asked the court to keep him under custody.
He said the reason is Dodou is a household name in Bakau and a youth leader and if granted bail he will be back in the same community and likely interfere with the witnesses.
The prosecution also informed the court that during the riot Jatta released a video saying they will not relent until the murder suspect is handed over to them. Keita said the accused person is an influential person, adding there is fear that if he is released on bail he will proceed with his intention.
The prosecution further informed the Court that there are some people at large and police are still investigating the matter adding the accused can interfere with the investigation.
Lawyer Yankuba Dabo informed the Court that they are not opposed to the adjournment sought by the prosecution, but they are opposed to the application of the Prosecution to deny the accused bail.
He relied on section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code which empowers the courts to use their discretion to grant bail to accused persons. He also relied on section 24 (3) (1) of the Constitution of The Gambia, which provides for presumption of innocence until proven guilty and section 19 of the same constitution, which guarantees the right to liberty and security.
He submitted that all the charges against Jatta are not a capital offense and therefore, Jatta can be admitted to bail. He said the charges before the court attract between 1 month to a 7 years maximum sentence if convicted.
He further accused the prosecution of bringing evidence through the ‘back door’ as if such evidence exists saying the video the prosecution mentioned is not before the Court and was not presented for the defence to challenge it.
Lawyer Darboe argued that the prosecution didn’t mention anywhere that the accused person has a criminal record or someone who does not respect the law. He said the accused person has a clean record. On whether Jatta will interfere with witnesses or not, Jatta said the court has the power to restrict the accused person from interfering with the investigation.
He submitted that the accused person has no intention to leave the country and has no wish to go back into the alleged crime.
After hearing submissions of both parties, the presiding Magistrate Mben Faal adjourned the matter to the 13th December 2022 for ruling on the bail application at 12:30.