By Yankuba Jallow
Commissioner Abdoulie Sanneh, the third prosecution witness has told the Court presided over by Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara of the Special Criminal Division of the Banjul High Court that he regretted identifying Ebrima Solo Sandeng to Yankuba Badjie, the first accused person as that resulted to his death.
Counsel Christine E Mene for the first accused person in his cross-examination told the witness that he (PW3) had exaggerated what happened in Court when he testified that the police intervention unit (PIU) officials threw Solo Sandeng and the other arrestees on the 14th April 2016, by throwing them in the vehicle. He added that throwing persons can result to the detainees sustaining injuries and other damages on their bodies such as bleeding. The witness denied that, saying, “what I said is the truth; I saw when Solo Sandeng and others were thrown in the vehicle”. He added that “my answer is yes, no, it depends on how you throw them”. He also denied Lawyer Mene’s claim that they were subjected to violence such as beatings, adding he did not see that. Commissioner Sanneh also told the Court that he does not know the reasons for the arrests of Solo Sandeng and co because he does know what orders were given to the PIU officers that arrested them.
Mene told the witness that he was “responsible for anything that happened to Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie, Modou Ngom, Ebrima Jabang and Kafu Bayo as the ring leaders because if he had not identified them to the first accused person, Solo Sandeng may have been alive by today”.
“I only identified them and that does not mean I have killed him (Solo Sandeng) because identifying and killing are different, had it been I have not identified them, I will not have stood here (in Court) to give testimony. If I knew Solo Sandeng would killed, I would not have never identified him to them,” PW3 responded.
“You regretted identifying Solo Sandeng to the first accused person because you know it triggered the chain of action today,” Mene told PW3.
“I regretted, if I knew he would have been killed, I will never have identified him,” he said.
Mene asked him on whose orders he followed the PIU officers to their headquarters in Kanifing. In his response, the witness said it was his Commissioner who ordered him (PW3) to follow him to the place (PIU headquarters).
“I went there as a police officer not an observer and also there were some military intelligence officers who were not in uniform,” he said.
He said he knew they were military intelligence personnel because he knows one of them named Sulayman Sambou. He also told the Court that the detainees (Solo Sandeng and others) were put in an open hall at the PIU Headquarters sitting on the floor but cannot say whether anyone can see through.
“Is it a standard procedure for police officers to take mobile phones from detainees?” Mene asked.
The witness replied that it depends on the sensitivity of the case and denied Lawyer Mene’s claim that arrests of Solo Sandeng and co is a sensitive matter adding that he is not a PIU officer and it is for the PIU to tell.
Mene noted what the witness was saying is that he cannot brief the service chiefs (who were the IGP, Director of NIA, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of PIU, the team leader for the operation and others) because he did not know the order given to the PIU officers and who gave them the order; that he is not a PIU officer and not under the PIU and was not involved in the operation. The counsel then asked the witness how can he brief the security chiefs and the team that went to Westfield including their leader, when he actually told the Court that he (PW3) was not involved in the operation.
He responded: “I was asked to brief them on what I saw at Westfield”.
Commissioner Sanneh admitted that he was the one who identified 3 of the 5 people who were transported to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Headquarters, Banjul. The persons who were identified were Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie and Modou Ngom. He added that he acted on the request of the former Director General of NIA, Yankuba Badjie (the first accused person) to identify the 3 persons.
“When he told me, I was afraid that if I had failed, I would face the consequence,” he said.
He said he identified Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie and Modou Ngom as protesters he recognised at Westfield. He denied basing his identification of the three as the ring leaders but Lawyer Mene intervened and read his summary of statement as witness that is before the Court. He also admitted Lawyer Mene’s claim that nobody identified Nogoi and Modou to him as ring leaders. He further said that at the time the first accused person (Yankuba Badjie) was giving him the instruction to identify 5 people in the midst of the detainees, the former IGP, Yankuba Sonko was adjacent to him whilst Yankuba Badjie was behind him. He added that at the time when 5 identified detainees were going to Banjul, in his presence, he did not see any PIU officer escorting them.
“Does the IGP take his orders from Yankuba Badjie, the first accused person”? Mene asked.
“I can’t tell, but in that hall, he made the order and that I am not the IGP, I don’t know where the IGP takes his orders from” PW3 responded.
He acknowledged that the rest of the detainees were taken to Mile II by PIU officers. Mene puts it to him that before Mile II accepts detainees, there must be a warrant that will be presented to them. PW3 said “yes, under normal circumstances that is how it should be, but whether they were given documents or not or whether they were taken to Mile Two or not, I can’t tell”. He added that since he is not a PIU officer, he cannot tell whether the PIU officers presented documents to the prison authorities .
Mene asked how the first accused person who is not part of the hierarchy of the police be able to give orders to the police in the presence of the IGP, Commissioner of Operations, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of PIU and other senior police officers. The witness told the Court that he (Yankuba Badgie) did it in his presence. Mene asked what the reaction of the IGP was when the first accused person gave that order, in his response, the witness said the IGP was voiceless as he could not say anything.
Following the end of Lawyer Mene’s cross-examination, Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye for the State asked the witness whether the first accused person obtained permission from the IGP when he was given the orders, the witness said “I don’t know whether the permission of the IGP was sought, all I know is he (Yankuba Badjie) was talking to me not the IGP”.
The case was adjourned till Monday 11th December 2017 for continuation of hearing.