13 November 2012

Gambia: GAMCOTRAP Duo Acquitted and Discharged

Principal Magistrate Alagbe A. Taiwo of the Banjul Magistrates' Court on Monday 12 November, delivered judgment in the protracted criminal trial involving the Inspector General of Police and two GAMCOTRAP officials by acquitting and discharging the accused persons namely; Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director and Madam Amie Bojang Sissoho, the Programme Coordinator of The Gambia Committee on Traditional Harmful Practices (GAMCOTRAP). They are acquitted of the two count criminal charges against them. The two female Human Rights defenders were standing trial on the charges of Theft and Fraudulent false Accounting.

In summing up the judgment in a jammed Courtroom, which lasted for 35 minutes, Magistrate Alagbe pointed out that the duo were charged on count one to wit 'Theft'; that they jointly stole 30,000 Euros provided by Yolocamba to GAMCOTRAP and count two,'Fraudulent False Accounting'; that the duo in 2009 jointly and fraudulently stole 30,000 Euros provided by Yolacamca.They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Court indicated that during the course of the trial, the prosecution called 8 witnesses to support and prove their case against the two. The Court added that the duo also testified in their defence and called one Omar Dibba as their witness. The Court also summarised the entire evidence that was adduced before the Court by both the prosecution and defence witnesses.

Magistrate Alagbe stated that the evidence of PW1, 2, 3 and 4 are imperative and was corroborated by the evidence of Dr. Touray and Amie Bojang Sisssoho. The Magistrate added that the Court shall adopt the issue as forwarded by the defence counsel in her address to the Court. Mr. Alagbe indicated that the prosecution's claim on the email between Omar Dibba of GAMCOTRAP and Susi of Yolacamca cannot be treated as a substantial material evidence as such, email should have come from Dr. Isatou Touray as the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP. The Court asserted that Lagonia (PW8) acted unprofessionally when she indicated that immediately after the first phase of the project and the breach of contract, she sent GAMCOTRAP an amount of 1000 Euros. The Court added that the 1000 Euros was returned to them. The Magistrate pointed out that he entirely agrees with the defence that no money was taken by the two accused persons from Yolacamca for personal gains and that evidence was confirmed by the evidence of prosecution witnesses 1, 2 and 3; that they were given money to purchase Ashobi and T-Shirts.

The Court said: "There was no iota of evidence that Dr. Touray and Amie Bojang used the money on personal gains. The Court doubts if there was mutual agreement between the two sides for a micro finance project. The contract between the two was witnessed by many on behalf of Yolacamba and one Susi. The Court ruled that Susi was not called as a witness by the prosecution as she is a material and potential witness in the case.

According to Magistrate Alagbe, the Prosecution has failed to prove the basic ingredients of the charges against the two and asserted that the Court hereby acquitted and discharged them".

Before Magistrate Alagbe could finish announcing the last words of the verdict, there was a big uproar and clapping within the parked and congested Court room. The duo hugged each other whilst standing in the dock and several people who were there to give solidarity were also seen hugging and shooking hands with the activist whilst others jubilate saying: "ALHAMDOULAH (Praise be to Allah) and others still said: "ALLAHUAKBAR (Allah is the greatest")

Saying:"Justice has been done".

The duo was soon surrounded by sympathisers and well wishers who were emotional and were shedding tears of joy.

Dr. Touray in a short address after emerging from the Courtroom thanked the Court for judiciously executing justice. She also thanked the people, organizations, institutions, individuals and media houses that stood by them by showing solidarity during the course of the long trial.

The prosecutor Superintendent Sainey Joof represented the Inspector General of Police, whilst the defence was represented by lawyer Amie Bensouda.

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