UPDATE: Gambia: Defence maintains stance on discharging of Gamcotrap officials
The team of defence counsel comprising Amie Bensouda, Lamin K Mboge, Sagarr Jaharteh and Ebrima Jah, have for the second time maintained their stance in their application for the court to discharge Dr Isatou Touray, executive director of Gamcotrap and Amie Bojang-Sissoho, programme coordinator of the same organisation.
The defence headed by Amie Bensouda made the application following an application for an adjournment made by the police prosecutor, Sainey Joof due to the absence of the prosecution witnesses in court. According to the prosecutor, his witnesses supposed to travel from the provincial villages in the Upper River Region and Central River Region and as such, he was obliged to make an application for an adjournment of the case to enable him produce them in court.
This application left the defence led by Amie Bensouda with no alternative than to submit an application requesting the court to discharge the accused persons for what she described as lack of diligent prosecution of the case in accordance with the spirit and purpose of rules governing fair trial of criminal cases.
The defence counsel then backed up her submission with reference to Section 24 (3) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. The defence premised the application for discharge among other things, that the said prosecution should bring in complainants to the case instead of provincial women as witnesses.
"My lord, the application for discharge of the accused persons is tenable, because the delay of proceedings is an infringement of the accused persons right to fair and speedy trial pursuant to Section 24 (3) of the Constitution of The Gambia. The prosecution were earlier on requested to supply the defence with all the necessary documents they intend to rely on for the prosecuting the case, but they are yet to comply. I further submitted that the prosecution is not ready to prosecute this case diligently with due regards to the constitutional rights of the accused persons and therefore I submit that the accused ought to be discharged," Amie Bensouda hinted.
Further commenting on the need for the court to discharge the accused persons, Amie Bensouda observed among other things that the prosecution is not ready to face the court to give evidence and support its' case. She pointed out that it is not possible to have a charge hanging over the head of an accused person without proceeding with the prosecution of the case.
The police prosecutor responded by expressing his total objection to the application of the defence counsel for discharge of the accused persons. According to him, he was expecting his witnesses in court, but unfortunately they did not come due to difficulties experienced in contacting them in their various villages in the Upper River Region and the Central River Region.
"My lord, this is a criminal case, not a civil suit. On the last adjourned date the defence made an application for them to be supplied with police records, which is not tenable at the lower court level. I never heard about production of police records in the Magistrates' Court, that is applicable to the High court not the Magistrates' Court," he told the court and later assured that he will produce his witnesses in court on the next adjourned date in accordance with rules governing fair and speedy trials.
Ruling of the court
Magistrate Nkea made it clear to the court that he had listened to submissions from both sides and he accordingly struck out the application for discharging of the accused persons at this stage of the trial. He then made an order for the police prosecutor to supply the defence with all the necessary documents they intend to rely on for the prosecution of the case.
The case was adjourned to December 1st 2010 for continuation.
Author: by Sanna Jawar
Tuesday, November 23, 2010