By Yankuba Jallow
The case of 15 Guineans and host of other cases are before the courts without hearing dates.
These Guineans were charged with conspiracy to felony, criminal trespass and punishment for malicious injuries before the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court. The matter was transferred to the high court owing to the lower court’s lack of jurisdiction to try the case. These Guineans were remanded by the magistrate pending their arraignment before the high court.
The matter has been registered at the high court’s registry and it has been assigned to Justice Sainabou Wadda-Cisse to try the 15 accused persons.
These Guineans allegedly went on the rampage, ransacked their Embassy in Kololi and destroyed documents and machines which resulted to their arrest and detention. The incident came on the heels of violent protest in Guinea by members of Forum for the Defence of National Constitution of Guinea (FNDC) who are opposed to President Alpha Conde’s plan to hold a referendum aimed at amending certain articles of that country’s constitution. If the draft constitution came through, it will allow President Conde to run for third term in office which members of the FNDC and some citizens of Guinea are opposed to. The accused persons have been in detention for 19 days now and they are yet to take their plea.
There is no date set for hearing because the State is yet to file any indictment for the matter to commence. A senior State Counsel confirmed to Foroyaa that they haven’t filed any process yet. He continued that the courts will dedicate the month of June for trying criminal cases to do away with the backlogs of criminal cases.
“If the police charge a person before the magistrate’s court and the matter is transferred to the high court, we prepare a new indictment and file it before the high court and this is when a hearing date is given. As for the Guineans case, we are yet to file anything,” the senior State Counsel told Foroyaa.
The case of former lawmaker Lie Saine is one of the cases that are suffering from delay. In fact, this case does not have a hearing date. Foroyaa inquired from the court clerk, the prosecutor and the clerk of the defence lawyer and they all confirmed that there is no date set for the case. The former Banjul Central legislator is facing charges on seditious intention and incitement to violence. Saine is standing trial for allegedly releasing a ‘WhatsApp’ audio on 2nd November 2018 in the city of Banjul without lawful excuse and with intent to incite violence, and was purported to utter a statement on ‘Whatsapp’ audio using abusive and derogative remarks against an entire tribe, stating their selfishness, hypocrisy and wickedness as a people. His trial began sometime in September 2018 and he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Saine said he belongs to an APRC WhatsApp group where there was a heated argument among members; that as an elder in the group, he made the audio to clarify the issues under dispute. He said he clarified the difference between ‘Mandinka’ and ‘Sosseh’; that the argument was tense and he had to come in and make the clarification which according to him, was appreciated by all the members of the group, bringing an end to the argument. Saine said sometimes in WhatsApp forums, there are people who may not support the party but will join the group to collect information to share in many other forums. He indicated that it is unusual for information from their forum to be published in other social media platforms.
“Was your contribution to the (APRC) group intended to be made public?” Lawyer Mosses B. Richards-Johnson asked Saine.
The witness replied in the negative, adding that he did not publish it in any other forum.
The criminal appeal case of the 9 convicted soldiers who were sentenced to 9 years imprisonment is also hampered because the records of proceedings are not ready yet. They were convicted on Monday, 27th May 2019 and the lawyer for the convicts has filed a notice of appeal in the same month, but the case couldn’t proceed as a result of the record of proceedings.
The accused persons were arrested in July 2017 in relation to a WhatsApp group created to commit treason by arresting cabinet ministers, the Chief of Defense Staff and battalion commanders as well as to attack the ECOMIG.