By Yankuba Jallow
The criminal trial involving Musa Yali Batchilly, who is the Secretary General of the Gambia Action Party, is set for judgement.
Batchilly is facing prosecution on two criminal offences – fraud and obtaining money by false pretense.
According to the particulars of the offence, Mr Batchilly sometime in the year 2019, at Manjai Kunda and diverse places, with intent to defraud and by false pretence, he induced Fatoumata Baye-Saine to deliver to him the sum of 6,000,000 CFA, equivalent to D504,000 under the pretext that he legally owns a compound measuring 15m X 25m, situated at Batokunku on offer for sale, which pretext was false. In addition, the particulars indicated Mr Batchilly, with intent to defraud and by false pretence, induced Fatoumata Baye-Saine to deliver to him the sum of 6,000,000 CFA, equivalent to D504,000 under the pretext that he legally owns a compound measuring 15m X 25m, situated at Batokunku; concealing the fact that the compound he purported to sell does not belong to him.
He was granted bail in the sum of D500,000 and ordered to produce one Gambian surety, who shall deposit a title deed and should swear to an affidavit of means.
On the last adjourned date, the prosecution closed their case after calling three witnesses who all testified in the case. Lawyer Ebrima Kijera, who is representing Batchilly, was not present in court. Batchilly then informed the court that his lawyer was on his way to the court from Brikama. The case was delayed for fifteen minutes and when it resumed, Batchilly informed the court that he had spoken to his lawyer (supposedly vie phone), who had told him that he should tell the court that he is ready to open his defence on the 6th April 2021.
When the case resumed yesterday, Lawyer Kijera informed the court that he was “caught by surprise” meaning he was not told it was his time for his client to open his defence. Kijera urged the court to adjourn the matter for his client to prepare for his Defence.
Superintendent Almameh James Manga objected to Lawyer Kijera’s request, saying the Court is a court of law and procedure. He said it is the responsibility of both parties to accord the court with respect. He reminded the court of Batchilly’s statement on the last adjourned date that he is ready to open his defence. Manga quoted Batchilly’s statement before the court that he was ready to open his Defence and has communicated to his lawyer. He referred the court to its record on the previous sittings on Batchilly’s statement.
He added: “You cannot take the court for granted. We urge this honourable court to foreclose the Defence case and proceed to Judgement.”
In her ruling, Magistrate Isatou Janneh-Njie refused to grant the application for an adjournment saying Lawyer Kijera’s claim that he was caught by surprise cannot be substantiated since Batchilly already informed the court that he was ready to open his defence and has already informed counsel.
She ordered for the defence to open their case.
Lawyer Kijera told her that he was not ready to open his defence, adding she can proceed to do what she wishes.
The trial magistrate foreclosed the defence’s case and adjourned the case to 4th May 2021 at 11 am for judgement.