By Yankuba Jallow & Mariama Marong
Sheikh Omar Jeng, an erstwhile deputy director of operations at the National Intelligence Agency has concluded his testimony in his murder trial.
SOJ alias Sir Jeng together with six other former employees of the NIA are facing 25 criminal charges including the alleged murder of Late Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the ring leader of the 14th April 2016 UDP demonstration.
Jeng testified on Tuesday, 12th January 2021 on his third day into the witness box in defence of his case. He is the first defendant to testify in this 4 year protracted case before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara of the Banjul High Court.
Jeng recalled that he went home after the burial of Solo Sandeng at the NIA Coastal Unit in Tanji. He said while at home, he received a call from the headquarters informing him the three ladies detained there were in ‘bad state’ and his presence was required. Sir Jeng said the three ladies were Nogoi Njie, Fatou Camara and Fatoumata Jawara.
“Upon arrival, I discovered that Nogoi Njie has visible injuries, while Fatou Camara and Fatoumata Jawara were both in a semi-conscious state,” Jeng said.
Jeng said he tried speaking to them to know what happened, but it was only Nogoi Njie who spoke to him.
“She (Nogoi) told me that their current state at the time was as a result of the beatings the suffered the previous time,” she said.
Jeng testified that this was when he called the then deputy director general of the NIA Louis Gomez and reported the matter to him. Jeng explained that Gomez instructed him to summon the medic Lamin Lang Sanyang to attend to them. Jeng adduced that upon arrival and checking them, Sanyang advised that the three required medical attention. Jeng said Sanyang advised that the three women should be moved to the Agency’s Clinic which has admission beds. Jeng said after reverting the information to his boss – Louis Gomez, he approved and agreed with the suggestion.
“Together with the securities who were on duty, we assisted the three ladies into the clinic where they were attended to by the medic Lamin Lang Sanyang,” Jeng testified.
Witness Jeng said two female medics were brought in to assist Nogoi Njie and co in terms of their needs based on the advice of Sanyang. Jeng said the two were working in shifts and they were Saraba Jammeh and Fatou Darboe. He testified that after this arrangement, he left for home.
Weeks later, Jeng said he received a call from his superior Louis Gomez, who asked him to report to the Attorney General’s Office. He said he was ushered into the office of the then Minister of Justice Mama Singhateh. Jeng testified that the then Director of Public Prosecution Bakhum and his deputy M.B. Abubakar and State Counsel Binga D. were all present.
“The honourable Minister Singateh admonished me in the name of the Agency saying ‘you guys have created a big mess. You shouldn’t have buried Solo Sandeng after he died. You should have taken him to the mortuary to give way for proper investigation,” Jeng said.
She said the Minister informed him that she was tasked to remedy the situation that they created.
“She told me ‘now I have been tasked to fix your mess and I have been told that if I don’t do it, someone else will – meaning she will be replaced,” Jeng told the High Court.
The witness said the Minister informed him that the family of Solo Sandeng has filed a habeas corpus and that he should go down with the State Lawyers and cooperate with them.
At Counsel Binga D’s Office, he said he was given a document to sign but he insisted that he needed to read it before appending his signature on it. Jeng said he went with the document to the NIA headquarters.
“Binga D. told me it was an Executive Order which I should comply with,” Jeng said.
Despite Counsel Binga’s comment, Jeng said he went with the document to the NIA headquarters and relayed the information to his late boss, Louis Gomez.
“I discovered that the document was an affidavit deposed to in my name and I vehemently refused to sign it. I said I needed to go to the headquarters in order to discuss with the deputy director general,” Jeng said.
Jeng said he outlined the errors in the affidavit to his boss, but Gomez still asked him to sign it. Jeng added the Minister called Gomez about the matter and this was when he went back to the Attorney General’s Office and signed 9 or 11 other documents.
A few days later, Sir Jeng said deputy director Gomez instructed him to ask Lamin Lang Sanyang, who was the medic who confirmed the death of Solo Sandeng to prepare a death certificate in respect of the deceased.
“The medic, Lamin Lang Sanyang typed a dead certificate in a memo format addressed to the director general through the late deputy director general and through myself,” Jeng said.
He said he signed the column on the document and forwarded it to Gomez for the necessary procedure. Jeng told the court that the Attorney General’s Office rejected what Sanyang wrote. He said he led Sanyang to Binga D’s office in compliance with Gomez’s order.
“Binga D. told us that it was an Executive Order,” Jeng said.
He testified that upon returning to the office, Late Louis Gomez re-instructed him to ask Sanyang to prepare an official death certificate. The witness said Sanyang prepared an official medical death certificate for Solo Sandeng.
“Do you know how it was procured?” asked Lawyer S. Kenedy.
“No, my lady,” Jeng said.
He said sometime later, the Agency received a court order instructing them to ensure that six detainees appear in court on the date fixed by the court. He said the six detainees were Kafu Bayo, Modou Ngom, Ebrima Jabang, Nogoi Njie, Fatou Camara and Fatoumata Jawara.
He said he related the information to his boss Gomez who stressed that he should ensure that the court order is followed. He said Sanyang advised them to buy new clothing for the detainees because their original clothes were all torn. Jeng said the detainees were provided each with a pair of clothes and on the day of the court, they were taken to court as ordered.
On the chain of command at the Agency, Jeng said the chain of command starts and ends with the President because they all operate under his directives. He said the field workers report to the officers commanding; who would report to the assistant directors or directors and that category would report to the deputy director general, who would also report to the director general, who would also report to the President of the Republic. Jeng said this is clearly stipulated in the laws including the 1997 Constitution.
Jeng recalled the six detainees refused to eat the food the Agency provided for them for fear of being poisoned, but he intervened and ate with them as a way of convincing them.
“I joined them and we all ate in the same bowl,” Jeng said.
Jeng said the Agency gave each detainee D90 for food every day but he used to buy Afra for Nogoi Njie using his own money.
“Nogoi used to call me his brother,” Jeng said.
He explained that on the day the six were being taken to Mile 2 from the NIA, Nogoi Njie refused to join the vehicle and he had to suspend his mission outside Banjul to come to persuade her to join the bus.
“Nogoi told me she wanted to stay at the NIA; that she does not want to go to Mile 2,” Jeng said.
The case was adjourned to Wednesday, 13th January 2021 at 1 pm for cross-examination by the prosecution.