Sabally Challenges His Prolonged Detention

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By Kemeseng Sanneh

Momodou Sabally, UDP’s Campaign Manager has made an application before the high court yesterday Wednesday, seeking to overturn the court’s order regarding his prolong detention.

Sabally who is now member of the United Democratic Party (UDP) that recently held a political congress in Janjanburreh during the weekend of 9th and 11th of December 2022 where he was elected Campaign Manager, previously served in the Government of former president Jammeh as Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, and Minister for Presidential Affairs.

The high court on the 23rd of December 2022, ordered for Sabally’s prolong detention until 5th January 2023, when Constitution of the Gambia provides for a 72 hour limit for detention, meaning that no one can be detained for more than three days. However, this was a demand from the State for the court to extend it, and Justice Ngui Mboob on the 23rd of December 2022, extended Sabally’s detention.

Sabally now wants the same high court to set aside its own order, which was made ex-parte (ie: in the absence of Sabally).

Sabally’s application was supported by an affidavit which was sworn to by his wife, Jai Sarr. And according to her, her husband was arrested by personnel of the Gambia Police Force on Wednesday 21st December 2022, at about 4 pm at their residence in Ker Serign, in the West Coast Region; That she was informed by Sabally that he was at first told that he was required for questioning by the police at the Kairaba Police Station but on his way, he was told that he was under arrest and taken to the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) Headquarters in Kanifing.

She said Sabally told her that police officers from the Serious and Major Crime Units convened at the PIU Headquarters and interrogated him shortly after his arrest. She said Sabally told her that the interrogation was based on his audio which lasted nineteen seconds and indicated that the statement in the audio was made on Wednesday 14th December 2022, when his husband was addressing a group of young UDP “Tik Tokers”, who visited him to congratulate him on his new position as UDP campaign manager.

She said Sabally’s entire statement lasted approximately eleven minutes whereas the segment that was widely circulating on social media, was an edited and extracted secondary version from the primary audio.

Mrs. Sabally said her husband urged the group of UDP “Tik Tokers” to use social media and their platform and embark on a massive aggressive political campaign to enable the UDP to take the country from President Adama Barrow, by forming a majority. She stated that Sabally strongly advised the group to do so respectfully and to be law-abiding. She said Sabally asked them to change the negative perception of the people about the UDP and be good ambassadors of the party. She said Sabally specifically referred to the upcoming local government elections slated for 2023 and urged the group to use the influence of their social platforms to broaden UDP’s support so that the party incumbents can retain their seats while also taking other seats that the party is aspiring for.

Mrs. Sabally said her husband informed her that the police repeatedly asked him what he meant by “mbeh banko tala Adama Barrow bullu leh” in Mandinka, which she translated as: “we will take the country from Adama Barrow.” She said her husband told her that he took time to explain the context of the wordings used in the audio, and said her husband told police interrogators that there was a full unedited version of his statement and requested his seized mobile phone to be brought to the interrogation room and be played for the benefit of the police and everybody.

She said her husband told her that the entire audio was played and the police had the opportunity to contextualize the essence and rationale of the edited nineteen seconds video on social media, when taken together as a whole with the full unedited version.

She said Sabally wrote his cautionary statement which consist of betweeen 5-6 pages in which he substantively explained and clarified his statement, and situated it in the proper context in which it was made while addressing the group, and the purpose of his statement. She summed up that Sabally told her that he stated in his cautionary statement categorically, that as a matter of principle, he was opposed to any form of coup d’ état or any illegal removal of a democratically elected government.

Mrs. Sabally said her husband informed her that during the interrogation, the police did not make any direct reference to his arrest with the government’s announcement in the preceding hours of a foiled coup. That however, despite the police not drawing any direct links between the alleged foiled coup and his arrest, the direction of the interrogations strongly hinted at this. This she said was because the police repeatedly used a Mandinka proverb which can be translated thus: “a goat goes missing and soon afterwards, a wolf is seen passing” meaning the wolf is the culprit for the missing goat.

Mrs. Sabally said her husband sensed that the police were vigorously trying to link his statement to the reported foiled cup, although indirectly and subtly. She said since his interrogation in the first few hours of his arrest, her husband has since not been interrogated by anybody, neither the police nor any intelligence personnel. She said the police ceased interrogating him on Wednesday 21st December 2022 from around 21:30 hours to 22:00 hours, and that no questioning of him whatsoever happened. She said her husband spends his time reading the Holy Quran, praying and sleeping on a single mattress placed on the floor while in detention.

Mrs. Sabally said she was informed by Counsel Abdoulie Fatty that the high court lacks jurisdiction to sanction the violation of rights conferred on the applicant by Section 19 (3) (b) of the Constitution. She said she is advised by Counsel Abdoulie Fatty that the order extending the detention of Sabally is to allow the Executive to continue to infringe on the applicant’s rights, and further said that she is advised by Counsel Abdoulie Fatty that the practice directive invoked in the ex-parte application does not empower the High Court to allow the violation of individual rights that is guaranteed by the constitution.

She said she was advised by Counsel Abdoulie Fatty that the ex-parte order dated 23rd December 2022, was made without jurisdiction and therefore, should be discharged (set aside). She said her husband has not been served with any process by the State, and contended that the matter which was brought under a certificate of urgency, clearly lacks of any urgency on the part of the State. She said her husband informed her that he has been in detention for more than eight days without being taken to court or charged with any offence.

She said her husband struggles to sleep due to the extremely chilly winds, and that her husband informed her that the police are not desirous of prosecuting him, hence he has not been questioned or even visited by the investigators up to date, except in the first few hours of his arrest. She added that her husband’s detention is a deliberate ploy to restrict and silence him because of his relentless and fierce criticism of the government, including the IGP and the Attorney General’s office. She said her husband has some skin condition and a severe form of allergy which requires him to take medication on a regular basis which includes a strict and specific dietary regime in order to avoid aggravating his allergy. She said she has been able to take him his medication but her husband’s confinement and inability to get medication quickly for his skin reactions and allergy triggers particularly at night, will pose a serious threat to his health condition and overall well-being. She said the government has released numerous press statements naming individuals suspected of involvement in the alleged foiled coup, but said the applicant has not been linked or named as having any connection whatsoever, directly or indirectly, with the alleged foiled coup.

“ Looking at the entirety of the applicant’s arrest and the ex-parte application seeking his continued detention, and the absence of investigators engaging the applicant to elicit any material information if they believe he possesses any, is a clear indication that the state is not treating the applicant (Sabally) whatsoever, and the respondent did not produce any cogent evidence to support such an allegation as posing any serious threat to national security. If the Police believe that the applicant had committed an offence, especially a grave offence such as treason, they would not have arrested him and gone to sleep. He would have been charged by now and arraigned before a competent court. The fact that the applicant was only interrogated for a maximum of between three to four hours, including the hour spent to write his cautionary statement, the police did not in any way utilize the 72 hours they had. So, at the time of filing the ex-parte motion seeking an extension beyond 72 hours, the police had acted like the applicant was not even under their custody by not questioning him,” Mrs. Sabally indicated.

The case will come on the 3rd of January 2023 at 10 am.