By Alpha Yagouba Jallow / Rohey Jadama
The Banjul High Court presided over by Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara, on Wednesday 14th February 2018, turned down the plea of the accused persons, concerning their welfare in the prison.
The accused persons’ plea was that the new time for hearing, which is between 1 and 3pm, is not favourable to them; because at Mile II, they eat lunch between the hours of 2:30 and 3:30 pm daily. Lawyer Mene in raising the concern of the accused persons, said he does not expect the prosecution will object since the basic need of the accused persons is at stake; that though they have agreed on Monday that the court sittings will be between 1 and 3 pm, the accused persons will miss their lunch because they will not be catered for when they are in court and lunch is due.
The accused persons raised the concern through their lawyers but the public prosecutor, Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye, objected saying it does not concern the prosecution and the defence should do everything necessary by themselves. He argued that the plea made by the accused persons through their lawyers does not have any impact on the timing of the trial and that the court does not have power to give directives as to the internal operations at Mile II; that it is the role of the prison authorities to cater for them when their lunch is due. The accused persons are: Yankuba Badjie, Louis Gomez, former Deputy Director, Saikou Omar Jeng, former director of Operations, Haruna Susso, Yusupha Jammeh, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Baboucarr Sallah, and Lamin Lang Sanyang.
Meanwhile, Mr. Samba Sowe, the Deputy Director of internal Security at the State Intelligence Services (SIS) formerly NIA, testified earlier. Testifying as the eleventh prosecution witness (PW11), Sowe told the court that he started work at the NIA in January of 1994; that the agency was then called National Security Services (NSS); that on the 14th April 2016, he was on duty at the then NIA now SIS and that on that day at about 17:00 hours, he was called by his boss Lamin Fatty in his office, who was the then Director of investigation.
“He then asked me to go and prepare a questionnaire. I asked him how I can prepare a questionnaire when I’m not briefed. During our conversation Mr. Gomez who was the then Deputy Director of NIA and Sheikh Omar Jeng, the then Director of Operations, entered the office”, PW11 said.
He further added that Mr. Gomez asked him (the witness), what the information was about and he told him. The witness went on: “That is the time that Mr. Gomez informed me that they were the UDP protesters at Westfield. Sheikh Oamr Jeng, who was the Director of Operation said he was going to prepare the questionnaire himself. I was asked by my boss Lamin Fatty, to prepare a team to conduct the interview. Among the team include Lamin Ceesay, Kebba Secka, Bora Njie and Pa Serign Mboob”. The witness said the above mentioned people are staff of the investigation Unit of the NIA. “I prepared the team and at about 20:00 hours, the team started the interview of the suspects, based on the questionnaire prepared by Sheikh Omar Jeng”, he said.
When asked by Lawyer Antuman Gaye whether they were the only people in the conference room, the witness responded that there was Babou Njie and Assan Badjie who were conducting a video coverage of the interview.
The SIS Deputy Director of Internal Security said during the interview, his role was to supervise; that Kebba Secka was the one asking questions and Lamin Ceesay was there with Pa Serign Mboob and Bora Njie as members.
When asked whether he can recall the names of those interviewed, the witness responded in the positive, adding that he can remember Lamin Marong, Nogoi Njie, Fatoumatta Jawara, Solo Sandeng but that he cannot remember the rest. “The subjects were brought in and out of the hall by Haruna Suso. He was the OC in charge of Special Operations and the team included Baboucarr Sallah, Tamba Masireh and others I cannot remember”, said the witness.
The witness said Assan Badjie was doing the video coverage but that sometimes, they paused when the subjects are brought in and out; that about thirty people were interviewed and the interview was completed at about 1am. “I observed that Solo Sandeng, Fatoumatta Jawara and Nojoi Njie were in physical pain because they had to be supported when they wanted to walk or sit down”, the witness said.
When asked by Lawyer Gaye who supported the above mentioned people, the witness responded that it was Haruna Suso, Baboucarr Sallah, Tamba Masireh and others he cannot remember. ‘‘When Solo Sandeng was being interviewed, our then Director General Yankuba Badjie stood at the door to observe how the interview was going”, said the witness; that Sheikh Omar Jeng was the Director of Operations responsible for all operation matters of the NIA. When asked whether ‘Operation’ is different from ‘Special Operation Unit’, the witness responded in the positive.
“Special Operation was created by Yankuba Badjie and they were answerable to the directorate. Their role included arresting”, said the witness.
When asked about the mandate of the operation unit, the witness responded that for example if the president is travelling, it is the role of the Operation Unit to dispatch people to go and cover. When asked whether he can recall who took Solo Sandeng out of the interview hall, the witness responded: “as I said earlier, Baboucarr Sallah, Haruna Suso, Tamba Masireh and others and I cannot remember the rest”, said the witness. When asked whether he knew where Solo Sandeng was taken, the witness responded that they took him to the detention center of the NIA headquarters and that all the suspects were taken back to the detention center.
At this point the witness was asked whether he can see the following people in court namely Yankuba Badjie, Sheikh Omar Jeng, Mr. Gomez (the person the witness referred to as the Deputy Director), Haruna Suso and Tamba Masireh and the witness responded in the positive, adding that all of these people are present in court. As Tamba Masireh’s name was mentioned by Lawyer Gaye, he was seen smiling.
At this point Lawyer Gaye took leave of the court for the witness to step out of the witness box and identify the above-mentioned names, which was granted by the court. The witness walked up to where the accused persons stood and pointed at each of them starting with Yankuba Badjie (1st accused), Mr. Gomez (2nd accused), Baboucarr Sallah (4th accused), Haruna Suso (6th accused), Tamba Masireh (7th accused). Tamba Masireh was again seen smiling, as the witness points at him.
The court in its ruling considered the submissions of both the prosecution and the defence but said the issues raised, are issues that can be negotiated and upheld Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye’s objection. The case was adjourned to Monday 26th March 2018, at 1 pm for continuation of hearing.