FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

Gambia: Treason Trial Draws to an End As Lie Joof, Rambo Enter Defence

The treason trial involving the state and eight men namely, Lieutenant General Lang Tombong Tamba, the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye, Major Lamin Bo Badjie, Lieutenant Colonel Kawsu Camara, alias Bombarde, Momodou Gaye, former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP), Gibril Ngorr Secka, Abdoulie Joof, alias Lie Joof and Yousef Ezziden, alias Rambo, draws near its end after the last two accused persons testified in their defence on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 June, respectively, before Justice Emmanuel Amadi, of the Banjul High Court.

On Thursday 9 June, the seventh accused person Lie Joof started his defence and which ended on Friday 11 June. The last and eighth accused person, Yousef Ezziden, also commenced his defence.

Mr Abdoulie Joof, the seventh accused person, told the court that his age is 68 years and 6 months. Mr. Joof said he is a Clearing and Forwarding Agent operating under the business name of "Nyohobaye and Sons", situated at 58 ECOWAS Avenue, Banjul. Mr Joof said he knew General Lang Tombong Tamba way back in 1995 at The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) premises. He said he did a service for General Tamba by clearing his car from the ports and was paid for the service. He said he does not know where General Tamba resides. The seventh accused said the claim by Ebrima Marreh that he (Lie Joof) has attended meetings at the houses of General Tamba is a blatant lie. He said it is not true that he was assigned the role to finance the coup d'etat and that he gave out a bank cheque for the purpose of a coup, adding that it is a total fabrication that there was a coup plot.

Mr. Joof told the court that he banks with the then IBC now bank PHB and that the account is in the name of "Nyohobaye and Sons".

At this stage Lawyer Tambedou gaveMr. Joof a bundle of papers of nineteen pages and which he recognized as bank statements of "Nyohobaye and Sons" from bank PHB dated from 5th January to 31st December 2009. The bank PHB statements were tendered in evidence and admitted as Exhibit 7DW1 without objection by DPP Chenge.

Mr. Joof told the court that he attended the funeral of General Tamba's late father at Sifoe village and had also attended the eight days charity. He said on these two occasions many diplomats, ministers, senior security officers converged at the same Siffoe village for the funeral. Mr. Joof said he did call General Tamba to extend his apology for not being able to attend the forty days charity of his father and to tell him that he has delegated someone with an amount of D2,500 for his contribution to the charity.

The seventh accused denied knowing Ebrima Marreh until he testified in court as PW1. He said he could not understand and would not know why Ebrima Marreh made such fabrications and lies against him.

Mr Joof told the court that he was arrested on 21 November 2009 at around 3:30pm, while at one of his client's office at ECOWAS Avenue. He said the two NIA officers came into the office where he was and demanded that he accompanies them to the NIA office for clarification of certain issues with him. He added that upon arrival at NIA he was invited to a panel of investigation.

At this stage, Justice Amadi adjourned the case till Friday 11th June, for the continuation of the testimony of Lie Joof.

Friday - 11th June

Continuing his defence, Mr. Joof told the court that at the panel he could recognise some of the NIA officers. He said he was asked whether he knew General Tamba and he told them that he knows General Tamba since he (Tamba) was a Lieutenant in the army. He said the panel asked again about the last time he saw General Tamba and that he told them it was at his late father's funeral at Sifoe village. He added that he was again asked whether he saw General Tamba during the course of the past three weeks at Tamba's compound; that he told them that he does not even know General Tamba's compound and has never been there before. He added that those were the only three questions they put to him.

Mr. Joof told the court that before he was about to be confronted with Ebrima Marreh, the panel took him into a toilet room adjacent to another room and where he could hear conversation from that adjoining room. He said he was asked to listen to what Ebrima Marreh was going to say about him and that he heard Ebrima Marreh saying that he (Lie Joof) has attended a charity at General Tamba's house in Kololi. He said PW15 (NIA officer) asked Marreh to described him (Lie Joof). He said Ebrima Marreh described him as a "big belly and a short man" who drove a white Mercedes Benz car. Lie Joof said the panel was not satisfied with the description given by Ebrima Marreh, because they have observed that the description was not correct. He added that he was never confronted with Ebrima Marreh as stated by PW15 in court.

Lie Joof said General Tamba was later brought to the panel and that they asked Tamba whether he knows him (Joof) and he (Tamba) answered in the positive. Mr. Joof said the panel also asked General Tamba when he last met with him (Joof) and he told them that it was at his father's funeral in Sifoe village. He said the third question the panel put to General Tamba was whether he (Lie) has ever visited his house and that Tamba told them he (Lie) has never been to his house and that he even doubts whether he (Lie) knows his house because he has never been there.

Mr. Joof added that the former deputy CDS, Major General Yankuba Drammeh, also told him that he was arrested some five hours ago and advised him not to worry. He said he was taken back to Mile 2 Prison.

The seventh accused told the court that he was detained at the Mile 2 Prison from 21 November 2009 till the 2nd February 2010, when shortly after midday, he was brought along with the second accused person, Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye to the NIA headquarters. He said PW15 (NIA officer) with other NIA officers including the Director General of NIA informed them that they have been ordered to be released by the president based on the recommendation of the panel. He stated that the DG NIA apologised to them for their long stay in detention and asked them to take it in good faith. He added that the NIA boss told them that the panel had investigated the matter and that they found nothing against them; that he was subsequently released to go home.

Mr. Joof told the court that on the following day, the 3rd February 2010, while on his way to see his doctor, he received a phone call from the NIA requesting him to report to the office of the director of operations at NIA. Mr. Joof said upon arrival he waited and within thirty minutes the second accused person, General Mbye, arrived and that within five minutes again the eighth accused, Yousef Ezziden, also arrived. He said they were in the office of the director of operations up to 4pm when the operations director told them that the DG was unable to see them because he was ashamed. He said the operations director explained to them that they have investigated everything and could not find anything wrong on their side and that was why the president released them; that the director of operations told them it was the DPP who requested for their re-arrest because he was still handling and studying their case file. He added that the operations director told them that he would be knocking on the doors of the DPP for legal backing because he was the one who requested for their arrest. He added that they were later taken back to Mile 2 Prison.

Continuing his defence, Mr. Joof told the court that on the 9th February 2010, while lying sick on his cell bed, he was taken from Mile 2 Prison to the office of the DPP and the DPP told him that there was a coup plot in which he (Joof) is involved and that he was one of the financiers of the said coup. He said the DPP offered promises that if this is done, he (Joof) would be released right away to go home. He said he told the DPP that he cannot make a statement to witness something that he does not know anything about. Mr. Joof said, "I told the DPP that I'm a staunch supporter of the president and his APRC party. I told Mr. Chenge that I'm 68 years old with three wives and several children and that one of my wives is an adopted sister to the president since 1999. I also told him that I am an adopted father of the APRC Women's Wing of the Soldier Town Ward in Banjul. I also told the DPP that I was sick and he telephoned the NIA for them to take me to hospital, but they said there is an infirmary at the Mile 2 Prison for sick prisoners. Everybody in Banjul knows Lie Joof. This is a small country. I have done a lot for this country. I was appointed by the president as a member of the Monitoring Group of The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA)."

Mr Joof said he was given a certificate of merit by the president at a mass political rally held at the 22nd July Square in Banjul.

When shown by his lawyer, Mr. Joof recognised both his appointment letter to GRA signed by the Secretary General, Office of the President and also the certificate given to him by the President. The two documents were tendered and admitted in evidence as Exhibits 7DW2 and 7DW3 without objection by DPP Chenge.

Going further, Lie Joof said the charges against him are all lies, adding that he has no time to conspire with anybody against the President. He said he is 1000 (One thousand) percent loyal to President Jammeh and that the President himself knows that. He added that he would go into his grave with his support of President Jammeh. He indicated that he has no time to attend meetings and that he is always at the ports even on Sundays.

Mr. Joof said he does not know Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye and has never seen him before; that they only met in detention at Mile 2 after their arrest. He said he does not know Major Lamin Bo Badjie, neither did he know Lieutenant Colonel Kawsu Camara (Bombarde). He said he only knew Modou Gaye as DIGP, but that he has never had any contact with him. He said he knew Ngorr Secka, but had not seen him for the past six years. He stated that he used to see Yousef Ezziden (Rambo), but did not know him or have any contact with him.

CROSS EXAMINATION BY DPP CHENGE

After completing his testimony in his own defence, Lie Joof was examined by DPP Chenge.

DPP said, "You are a business tycoon in The Gambia, clearing and forwarding." Lie Joof said, "That is not true. I'm not a tycoon and not a businessman. I'm just an employee as a clearing and forwarding agent." DPP said, "You are called to many functions in The Gambia, where you do donate very generously." Lie Joof said, "That is not correct. I do not have time to go to functions. I work seven days a week continuously. I only donate to the APRC party and not to any other person." DPP asked, "Can you tell the court how much money you have spent on APRC? "Lie Joof said, "I cannot and I don't know." DPP said, "Will it be right if I say you have given the APRC more than 100 million Dalasis?" Lie Joof said, "No my lord, that is not true." DPP said, "At the funeral of the first accused's father, you gave him D35,000 for the charity." Lie Joof said, "Astakh furrla" (God forbid), that is not true".

There was laughter, but Mr. Joof shook his head apparently in disagreement.

He added, "I only sent D2,500 for charity." DPP said, "You said you do not know PW1 (Ebrima Marreh). Did you have any quarrel with him?" Lie Joof said, "I do not know him, how can I have a quarrel with him." DPP asked, "Can you tell the court why somebody you do not know and do not quarrel with will lie against you like that?" Lie Joof said, "I don't know that. But I know that it is created and fabricated." DPP said, PW15 (NIA officer) said you were confronted with PW1 (Ebrima Marreh). Lie Joof said, "That is not true. I only came to see PW1 in this court room here." DPP said, "In 2009, the telephone printouts show that you were vigorously calling the first accused person (Tamba) and he too was frequently calling you." Lie Joof said, "This is not true. Through out 2009, I only called him not more than three times and he also called me not more than twice." DPP said, "You were attending meetings at the house of the first accused person with all the other accused persons." Lie Joof said, "That is not true, I don't even know where he lives." DPP said, "You gave D50 million to the first accused person to purchase arms and train mercenaries to invade The Gambia."

Before Lie Joof could answer, there was murmuring from the court gallery. Lie Joof could also be seen in the witness box laughing.

He said, "My lord, that is not true." DPP said, "You will be happy to see the first accused to become head of state." Lie Joof said, "I do not compare anybody with President Jammeh, even if am going into my grave I will go with his support." DPP said, "My lord, that is all for him."

TESTIMONY OF THE EIGHTH ACCUSED PERSON, YOUSEF EZZIDEN

The eighth and also last accused (8th) person in the treason trial, Mr. Yousef Ali Ezziden, on Friday 11th June, commenced giving his testimony in his defence against the three treason charges against him.

Mr. Ezziden alias "Rambo" told the court that he came to the Gambia in 1987 from his native country of Lebanon. Mr. Ezziden said the nickname "Rambo" was given to him since then. He said since he came to the Gambia he has been residing in the country and was involved in slippers manufacturing business but later abandoned that for his previous textile business. He said he has been importing goods from America and Europe and has been operating along Kairaba Avenue. He said he was later allocated his own premises through the blessing of President Jammeh and that he developed that particular premises within two years.

Mr. Ezziden told the court that as a businessman, he is banking with four different banks namely, "Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Standard Chartered Bank, Prime Bank and BSIC. He said he has two properties in The Gambia. He said he has a wife and four children, who are all Gambians; that all his children are going to school in The Gambia and are attending Marina International School.

Rambo said he has both official and business contacts with General Tamba since 1996, when he imported into the country a container of electronic equipment like, videos, TVs, tape recording players, air conditioners and refrigerators. He said he gave the equipment to different security agencies like the Army, Police, Fire Service and the Immigration with the aim of providing them with good living standards. He said the items were given out to them on long term loan basis, adding that he sought the advice of General Tamba as to how to go about this transaction.

Rambo told the court that he does participate in almost all the state functions or events on invitation. He said his participation in state events has earned him the recognition of the government and that for the support that he gave to the government, President Jammeh awarded him a medal as a friend of The Gambia Armed Forces.

Mr. Ezziden, when shown by his lawyer, told the court that he recognised the certificate awarded to him by the government and a gold medal awarded to him by President Jammeh with the picture of Jammeh embossed on it. The two awards were tendered in evidence as 8DW1 and 8DW2, without any objection from DPP Chenge.

Rambo said President Jammeh knows him and that they have met each other at different state functions. He said he used to see the president off whenever the latter is travelling or coming back from overseas trips.

Mr. Ezzedine said on 22 November 2009, he attended a state banquet in honour of the Iranian President at the Kairaba Hotel; that on the following day, 23 November, NIA officers came to his residence and asked him to accompany them to their headquarters in Banjul. He said he drove his vehicle with another officer on board with him. He said from 8:30am, he was left alone in the NIA conference room till 7pm, before they took him before the panel of investigators. He told the court that from 8 in the morning to 7 in the evening the NIA officers did not give him any food, until an officer who was eating sweet bread offered him a half of it.

At this point, Justice Amadi adjourned the hearing to today Monday 14th June, for continuation with the last accused person.

The defence of the eight accused person in the treason trial which commenced on 19 March, 2010, will end today after the conclusion of the evidence of accused number eight, Mr. Yousef Ezzedine..

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