By Yankuba Jallow
Lawyer representing former AFPRC Junta Minister Yankuba Touray, who is charged with the murder of a former finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay, on Thursday told the High Court in Banjul that he was going to withdraw from the criminal trial involving his client because the State was bent on delaying the matter.
Barrister Abdoulie Sisoho made the statement after the cross-examination of the prosecution witness Paramount Chief Momodou L.K. Bojang,
Lawyer A. Sisoho told Justice Jaiteh that he was withdrawing from representing Yankuba Touray. Defence Counsel Sisoho informed the court that the tactic of the State was to delay the case until ‘Illa Yawmu Deen’ (till judgment day). He cited the TRRC as an example who according to Sisoho ‘defied the court order’ to produce the testimony of Alagie Kanyi regarding Koro Ceesay’s death.
Sisoho uttered this statement at the heel of argument that ensued between him and Counsel A.M. Yusuf for the State. Their argument came about following Sisoho’s request to have multiple dates while Yusuf was not ready for that.
“This case is not making progress,” Sisoho told the judge, adding “what is the problem with taking multiple dates?”
Sisoho wanted the matter to come next week, but the State Lawyer Yusuf said he has other cases next week to deal with. Senior Counsel Sisoho said the State was not ready to proceed with the case since last week and that they should take multiple dates. State prosecutor Yusuf refused to take multiple dates. This brought about the exchange of words between him and the defence lawyer.
Justice Jaiteh adjourned the matter to Tuesday, 12th May 2020 between 11 am to 1 pm for the hearing of Prosecution Witness 8, a medical practitioner.
Testifying earlier before the Court, Chief Bojang said in 1995 he was the Commander of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Gambia Police Force. He said he doesn’t know Ousman Koro Ceesay but he was quick to add that he used to know him by his portfolio as the Minister of Finance.
He testified that he knew Yankuba Touray as a senior army office adding Touray was a famous person while he was residing at Tobacco-Road in Banjul. Chief recollected that Touray was a humble person who used to greet any person he meets on his way.
“He (Touray) is not pompous. He brings himself to the level of everyone,” Chief Bojang described Touray before the court.
Bojang added in 1995 Touray was the Minister of Local Government and Lands.
“Do you know where Koro Ceesay is?” Lawyer Abdul Maita Yusuf, the State prosecutor asked.
“He (Koro Ceesay) is dead,” Chief Bojang replied.
“Do you know anything relating to his death?” Counsel Yusuf inquired.
In his response, the witness (Bojang) said he received a call from the police control unit informing him about the involvement of Koro Ceesay in a fatal car accident along the Sukuta-Jambur highway. He explained that after getting the information, as the head of the CID, he went with his driver to the accident scene but he did not find the body of Koro Ceesay. He recollected that at the time he arrived at the accident scene he found they had already moved Ceesay’s body to the Royal Victoria Hospital (as it then was). He said he found a number plate at the accident scene bearing the number GG1322 A adding “this was the same number of Koro Ceesay’s vehicle.” He said he inspected the car together with two other officers; Ebrima Njie and Ebou Njie.
Chief Bojang said what he observed was different from what he was told by the police control unit with regards to the incident. He said he saw that the vehicle did not knock anything which can cause any casualty (dead).
“The vehicle did not hit anything and it never somersaulted,” he said.
He opined if the vehicle was running at a high speed before it rested, there would have been marks on the road suggesting it was running at high speed. He said the vehicle was found near a water canal which was dug for water to move from one side of the road to another.
He said when he took the number plate to his office at the Police headquarters with the anticipation, he will receive instruction from his boss, ERI Jammeh, the then Inspector General of Police to investigate the matter. Chief Bojang told the court that there was no police report sent from Western Division (now West Coast Region) requesting for investigation.
“To my knowledge the matter is not investigated up to date,” he said.
On cross-examination by Lawyer A. Sisoho for the defence, the witness was asked whether he was aware of the Coroner’s Inquest carried out with regards to Koro Ceesay’s demise but the Chief initially denied knowledge of it before saying he learnt about it.
“I learnt of it but I cannot confirm because I was not at the hospital at the time of the post-mortem,” the Chief responded.
“Throughout you time in the police, have you seen where a coroner’s inquest was been conducted?” asked Sisoho.
“Yes, Sir. I have attended so many of them at RVH and Bansang (hospital),” the Chief said.
“I think you are missing something. A coroner’s inquest is different from a post-mortem. A coroner’s inquest is like a court proceeding headed by a magistrate. Coroner’s Inquests are not done at the RVTH,” Sisoho told the Chief.
“I never attended one,” the Chief replied.
“I am putting it to you that by virtue of the laws of this country, a coroner’s inquest was held, the proceeding was conducted and a finding was made by the Coroner’s Inquest,” the Lawyer told the witness.
“Before I answer you which year was this?” the witness sought clarification.
“1995,” Sisoho said.
“Not to my knowledge,” the witness said.
“All the evidence you gather, including the photographs and number plate, were submitted before the Coroner during the time of the inquest,” Sisoho told the witness.
“Not to my knowledge,” Chief Bojang retorted.
“I am putting it to you that a judicial investigation regarding Ousman Koro Ceesay’s dead is superior to any police investigation,” said Sisoho.
“Not to my knowledge,” Chief Bojang answered.
Touray is a member of the defunct Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFRPC) and long-serving Minister of Local Government and Lands. He is standing trial for the murder of Ousman Koro Ceesay, a finance minister under the regime of the military in 1995 under the Chairmanship of former President Yahya A.J.J Jammeh.