By Lamin Fatty
Justice Landing M. Sanneh of the Basse High Court is set to deliver judgement on the protracted Koina arson case. The date for the delivery of judgement is Monday, 16 October 2023.
There are eleven accused persons in the case. They are Hagie Jabbi, Ousman Gumanneh, Omar Gumanneh, Banta Gumanneh, Saikou Lemeh Gumanneh and Dembo Touray all from Koina so-called freeborn faction. They are charged with arson, unlawful and willful assault on twenty persons by stoning and hitting them with sticks and causing actual bodily harm contrary to the Criminal Code.
The case emanated from a clash between people from different castes in Koina that occurred on Saturday, 25 May 2019 resulting to injuries and setting ablaze of properties.
Initially, more than 20 persons were arrested, charged and arraigned, on the 28th May 2019, before the Basse Magistrates Court and subsequently remanded in custody.
There were two cases before the court. The first case has a lone accused person who was charged with a single count of inciting violence contrary to the Criminal Code. Mahamadou Krubally, who was allegedly tied, beaten and sustained injuries, is accused of inciting violence by wearing a ‘provocative’ hat bearing the word ‘Gambana’ and entering the premises of the Imam which has a mosque. Mahamadou Krubally denied the allegation. The prosecution opposed bailing him, fearing that the accused will commit an offence if granted bail. Presiding Magistrate Jabang then remanded the accused in custody.
The second case has more than twenty accused persons in the first count. The defendants are being accused of unlawfully and willfully assaulting twenty persons by stoning and hitting them with sticks and causing actual bodily harm contrary to the Criminal Code.
The second count in this second case is arson contrary to section 305 of the Criminal Code. The charge lists down 22 persons as unlawfully and willfully setting the houses of five persons on fire which were all burnt to ashes.
Six of the accused persons told the magistrate that they were surprised to appear before the court because they are also survivors. The prosecutor indicated that they wanted to ascertain the facts and did not take chance during the arrests.
On Monday 22nd July 2019, the police withdrew the charge against Mahamadou Krubally, who was a lone accused person in the first case. Appearing before Magistrate Omar Jabang on that particular date, Inspector Sanyang, who appeared for the Inspector General of Police, made an application to the Court relying on section 68(1) of Criminal Procedure Code for the withdrawal of the charge against Mahamadou Krubally. The trial Magistrate granted the application and subsequently discharged Mahamadou Krubally of the charge.
On Monday, 30th July 2019, Justice Ebrima Jaiteh of the High Court discharged 5 defendants and granted bail to the rest of the17 defendants.
When the names of the accused person were mentioned in court, the court realized that there were five people who were remanded at the Janjangbureh Prison and their names were not captured on the charge sheet and he discharged them forthwith.
The five accused persons the court discharged on that day were: Muhammed Sanneh, Jarga Camara, Bangally Kanouteh, Ebrima Gumaneh and Musa Kanuteh.
Lawyer L.S Camara who appeared for the accused persons applied for his clients to be released on bail as the offence they committed is not murder and is bailable under section 24 of the Constitution.
Justice Jaiteh in granting bail to the defendants, relied on section 29(2) of the Criminal Code and then granted the accused persons bail in the sum of D50, 000.00 each with one Gambian surety each who shall swear and depose to an affidavit of means in the like sum.
The other bail terms were; the said surety must deposit his or her national Identity Card with the Registrar of the Court; the accused persons must deposit his or her travel document or national identity card or any other national document and must not travel out of The Gambia pending the hearing and determination of this trial; the accused persons shall require attending Court at each and every hearing of the trial; the accused persons are bound over to keep the peace and not to commit anything pending the hearing and determination of this trial; and the accused persons shall report to Basse Police station every Monday pending the hearing and determination of this trial or further orders of the Honourable Court.
The accused persons granted bail were; Haji Jabbie, Ousman Gumbaneh, Musa Kanuba Lema Kanuteh, Lekeme Dambelly, Essa Gumbally, Bangally Gumaneh, Marie Kinateh, Omar Gumaneh, Bangally Abdoul Gumaneh, Essa Jarra, Dawda Gumbally, Essa Gumbally, Bangally Jawara, Bahore Gumbally, Banta Gumaneh, Abodou Gumaneh, Mamadou Lamin Gumaneh, Saikou Lemme Gumaneh, Dawda Touray, Bangally Alimatou Gumaneh, Karaba Sissohor, and Bakary Jawara.
However, as the case was going on, some accused persons were discharged due to some amendments on the indictment by the prosecution which brought the number of accused down to seven(7). These seven accused are expected to know their fate on Monday 16th October 2023, after the judge delivers his verdict.