Justice Kumba Sillah Camara, the High Court judge presiding over the murder trial of former President Jammeh’s spy Chief Yankuba Badjie and eight others, on Monday, dismissed the defense team’s application for the court to strike out the case as the state is not diligent about the matter.
Yankuba Badjie with eight other former officers of the late most feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) under former President Yahya Jammeh are standing trial on allegations to have killed politician Solo Sandeng in April 2016.
Defense team – Lawyer C E Mene, counsel for 1st accused Yankuba Badjie; Lawyer E E Chime, counsel for 2nd accused Louis Gomez; Lawyer Moses Richards counsel for 3rd accused Sheikh Omar Jeng; U. Achibue for the 4th accused person, D. Dago for the 6th accused and legal aid lawyer S Kennedy for the 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th accused persons, all urged the court to strike out the case and discharged their clients accordingly as the prosecution fails to put their house in order.
When the case was called during Monday’s sitting, M B Abubacarr, the deputy director of Public Prosecution reminded the court that they received the case file on Friday at the close of work and based on that, they managed to come up with charges but are incomplete indictments.
“In the circumstance, I will ask for a long adjournment because the case at the moment is incompletely investigated and due to the state of the body of the deceased (Solo Sandeng), there is a need for a pathologist to come from abroad to conduct an autopsy” he submitted.
Lawyer C E Mene, defense counsel for the 1st accused Yankuba Badjie quickly reacted to the prosecution’s application for a long adjournment saying it is clear that the prosecution is not ready to prosecute the case.
He said there is no proper indictment presented before the court for the accused persons to take their pleas.
“I urged the court to invoke its powers under Section 19 Subsections 5 of the Constitution and alternatively strike out the matter for want of diligent prosecution” he applied, insisting this will give the prosecution all the time to do all that is required in the investigation.
Another Defence Lawyer E E Chime who is standing for the 2nd accused associated himself with the submissions of Lawyer Mene.
“As far as there is no proper indictment in the case, the court is not properly constituted and the only alternative is to strike out the matter and the accused persons be discharged pending the time the prosecution is willing and ready to proceed with the matter” he applied.
For Chime, the accused persons are before the court illegally and no court ever condones illegality.
Lawyer Moses Richards also associated himself with previous submissions and also said that his client (Sheikh Omar Jeng) is a sick man and denied access to see a doctor.
“Their incarceration is illegal and I urged the court to strike out the case or alternatively grant them bail as they have willing people to stand in as sureties” he equally applied.
Lawyer Richards assured the court that accused persons will never flee the jurisdiction saying “my client has assured me that he is ready to clear his name off this case”.
Other defence lawyers namely U. Achibue for the 4th accused, D. Dago for the 6th accused and legal aid lawyer S Kennedy for the 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th accused all associated themselves with the previous submissions made by the other defense lawyers.
Meanwhile, deputy DPP Abubacarr in reply to the various submissions by defense lawyers objected to their application saying the court is enjoined to take cognizant of the fact that they (prosecution) has filed information before the court, saying it is erroneous and misconceived for the defense to state that there is nothing before the court.
He said since they (prosecution) have filed an information, if the defense want to apply for bail, they have to come formally saying the application at the time lacks merit and should not be considered by the court. He called on the court to reject the application by defense team for the case to be stroke.
This prompted Lawyer Mene to again reply on points of law insisting that an exercise of the powers of the court under Section 19 Sub-sections 5 does not require a formal application. He said it is a provision of the Constitution that gives the court the powers to deal with a situation where the prosecution is not diligent.
Justice Kumba Sillah Camara after hearing arguments from both sides ruled that bearing in mind that the accused persons are in custody, she would have discharged them.
However, she was quick to note that the court has to take judicial notice of the fact that the prosecution has filed information already. “Therefore, the case is not illegal because it is transferred from the Banjul Magistrate Court”, she stated.
On the issue of striking out the case, she said the court is minded to refuse that application based on the fact that an information has been filed by the prosecution. She then announced that the state prosecutor is given up to the next adjourned date of 27th March, 2017, to file proper information before the court.