By Yankuba Jallow
A former deputy director of operations at the NIA testified on Monday that current Minister of Interior Yankuba Sonko was the one who instructed officers to take Solo Sandeng and four others to the NIA Headquarters in Banjul following their arrest on the 14th April 2016.
Sheikh Omar Jeng (Sir Jeng) stated this while under cross-examination on Monday, 18th January 2021 before Justice Kumba Sillah Camara of the Banjul High Court.
The resident of Kanifing is the third accused person in the ongoing criminal trial involving six other persons. They are charged with twenty-five counts of criminal offences including murder, torture, conspiracy and accessory after the fact of murder.
Here is the cross-examination of Sheikh Omar Jeng by Lawyer Antouman A.B. Gaye in verbatim.
Jeng was given Exhibit H upon request by Lawyer Gaye.
Gaye: What is that document?
Jeng: It indicates here ‘site plan’ showing the structures within the State Intelligence Services (SIS) headquarters in Banjul.
Gaye: That is known as the NIA.
Jeng: Yes, my lady.
Gaye: In your evidence last week, you said you met Nogoi Njie, Fatou Camara and Fatoumata Jawara. You said they needed treatment because of their injuries.
Jeng: Yes, my lady.
Gaye: Where were they treated?
Jeng: At the NIA Clinic.
Gaye: The plan Exhibit H does it show the Clinic?
Jeng: Yes, there is a place labelled the Clinic.
Witness Jeng pointed the place on the plan showing the Clinic which was shown to the Judge.
Gaye: We went to the NIA headquarters led by my lady. Were you not there?
Jeng: I was part of that visit.
Gaye: The place you pointed out just now was no longer there.
Jeng: My lady, the building was still there although the Clinic was no longer in existence.
Gaye: The court found demolition and construction ongoing which you yourself saw.
Jeng: Yes, my lady. We all saw that together.
Gaye: We have in evidence here that a place referred to as the Old Invest. Is it in that plan?
Jeng: My lady, I did not see anything here labelled as the Old Invest.
Gaye: You said the building is there, but the Clinic is not there.
Jeng: My lady, I said the building is there, but the Clinic was no longer in existence.
Gaye: The Clinic was it officially delineated as a clinic?
Jeng: My lady, I wouldn’t understand what ‘official designation’ here means, but I found the Clinic there [at the NIA] when I was in Darfur [Sudan] after a two and a half years absence.
Gaye: What you people now called SIS is not very far from the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.
Jeng: The definition of ‘not very far’ would be difficult for me to say, but they are in the same geographical area in Banjul.
Gaye: From the NIA headquarters in Banjul to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital is less than a mile.
Jeng: Without having measured, I can’t say so.
Gaye: Do you mind giving estimation from the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital to the NIA?
Jeng: Without having measured it, I cannot give an estimate.
Gaye: You are very high intelligence officer. Just answer my questions and avoid dodging my questions. You must answer my questions. I know you don’t measure it. I say estimation.
Jeng: It is my understanding that ‘estimating’ is equal to speculating. I cannot speculate.
Gaye: At your time at the NIA, do you have anybody at the NIA who is medically qualified as a doctor?
Jeng: My lady, I wouldn’t know the medical qualification of any individual at the NIA because when I left the service in 2013 and went to Darfur, there was no clinic at the NIA.
Gaye: You must answer my question. Is Lamin Lang Sanyang a doctor?
Jeng: My lady, I don’t know if he is a doctor, but I found him practising as a medical practitioner.
Gaye: You told this court “let the medic Lamin Lang Sanyang be called.”
Jeng: Yes, my lady I referred to him as a medical officer, but I don’t know his qualification.
Gaye: Did it ever occur to you to find out whether Lamin Lang Sanyang was medically qualified to treat people?
Jeng: No, my lady. That was not within my purview.
Gaye: Why did you not advisee your superiors for people to be regularly transferred to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital for treatment?
Jeng: My lady, I suggested medical attention for the three ladies and my immediate superior who was the Deputy Director General instructed Lamin Lang Sanyang to go ahead with the treatment.
Gaye: That is not the answer to my question. Why didn’t you make suggestion for the three ladies to be taken to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital for treatment?
Jeng: My lady, I did what was within my level. I didn’t know the extent of their injuries – so I couldn’t advise for their referral to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.
Gaye: I am putting it you that you didn’t recommend for the three people to be taken to the hospital because the NIA was being closed up – you didn’t want people outside the agency to see the extent of the injuries on the three ladies.
Jeng: I completely disagree with that, my lady.
Gaye: Nogoi Njie, Fatou Camara and Fatoumata Jawara how long were they detained at the NIA?
Jeng: I can’t recall the duration, but I believe it was from two weeks onwards.
Gaye: I am putting it to you that they were there for three weeks – 21 or 22 days in the custody of the NIA.
Jeng: It is possible.
Gaye: You know that you released people after detaining them for seventy-two hours.
Jeng: Of course, my lady. The Constitution stipulates seventy-two hours.
Gaye: Answer my question without mentioning the Constitution. We know it better than you. Why were they not released?
Jeng: I was not responsible for their detention from the first place.
Gaye: Tell us the answer to the question. Why were they not released?
Jeng: Since I was not responsible for their detention, I cannot ordinarily know.
Gaye: Did you find out from your superiors?
Jeng: No, my lord.
Jeng: Because it was not within my purview.
Gaye: On the 14th April 2016 you went to the PIU camp.
Jeng: Yes, my lord. I did.
Gaye: You arranged for the pickups to take what you people called UDP protesters. Is it not?
Jeng: Upon the request of the Inspector General of Police and the instruction of the Director General, I provided three pickups.
Gaye: The Inspector General of Police Yankuba Sonko was there, but remained muted all the time.
Jeng: I completely disagree with that assertion.
Gaye: The fact of the matter is that on the 14th April 2016, your senior – the first accused Yankuba Badjie was there.
Jeng: Yes, my lady.
Gaye: The Inspector General of Police Yankuba Sonko was there.
Jeng: Yes, my lady.
Gaye: General Saul Badjie was there.
Jeng: Yes, my lady.
Gaye: One of the witnesses Baba Danso was there?
Jeng: I would believe he was there
Gaye: He was there and you gave him instruction to take them to the NIA.
Jeng: I wouldn’t give any instructions to Baba Danso. He was not under my command.
Gaye: The police officer who testified here from Serrekunda Police Station was there.
Jeng: I wouldn’t know if he was there because I didn’t know him before.
Gaye: While you were there, your boss the first accused told Abdoulie Sanneh to identify the ring leaders and Abdoulie Sanneh identified the ring leader. It happened in your presence.
Jeng: My lady, I vehemently refute that because it didn’t happen.
Gaye: What didn’t happen? You have to be clear.
Jeng: What didn’t happen is my witnessing the Director General Yankuba Badjie asking Mr Sanneh to identify the ring leaders. What happened was the Inspector General of Police requested for vehicles and PIU officers escorted five protesters to the NIA in handcuffs on board three NIA pickups.
The case was adjourned to Tuesday, 19th January 2021 at 1 pm for the continuation of cross-examination of the defendant.