16 November 2012

Gambia: NIA Quartet Acquitted and Discharged

Principal Magistrate T .A. Alagbe of the Banjul Magistrates' Court yesterday, 14th November 2012, acquitted and discharged four members of the National Intelligence Agency, namely Lamin Darboe, Ebrima Drammeh, alias 'Jim' Drammeh, Edrisa Jobe, alias 'Alagie Morr', and Omar Jammeh on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove the torture allegation preferred against them.

Delivering the judgment in a crowded court room, the presiding magistrate recalled that the three of the accused persons were arraigned on four counts charges i.e. Conspiracy, Unlawful wounding, Unlawful wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm whiles the fourth accused Omar Jammeh was faced with a charge of 'common assault contrary to the laws of The Gambia.

The prosecution, continued the presiding magistrate, called five witnesses and tendered a host of exhibits, while the defence called four witnesses and tendered a case file of the complainant (Exhibit B2). He added that PW2 Lamin Karbou testified that he was taken to the Military Clinic but his medical paper was tore into pieces by the officer who escorted him, but the Magistrate questioned why the prosecution effort did not make effort to get another medical report from the said clinic since files are normally opened for patients. This, said the magistrate, has created doubt in the mind of the court.

Principal Magistrate Alagbe further indicated that the evidence of the former Executive Director of the National Drug law Enforcement Agency, Ibrahim Bun Sanneh, corroborated with the evidence of PW5 Ousman Sanneh and that the evidence of DW2, NIA operative Louis Gomez, also corroborated with that of Lamin Hydra (DW3) that the accused persons never tortured the complainants in this matter. He said both parties filed addresses after the closure of the defence.

According to the presiding magistrate, the defence argued in their address that for the charge of conspiracy to be sustained, the three accused persons must have agreed to commit a crime, whiles the prosecution referred the court to pictures of one of the complainants (Lamin Karbou). He said the burden of prove lies on the prosecution, adding that the evidence must be cogent and strong but the prosecution, he added, failed to prove that there was a medical report for Lamin Karbou.

The trial Magistrate stated that upon perusal of defence exhibit B2, he realized that the complainants never raised the issue of torture during the cause of their trial at the High Court and neither did they mention a word of torture in their cautionary statements. He said the word torture; injury and wounding cannot be synonymous. He added that the court cannot speculate, hence the evidence led by the prosecution created doubt in its mind and referred to the case of Onus versus the State.

"This court discovers lack of unity among security forces", said Principal Magistrate Alagbe.

Furthermore, the presiding magistrate ruled that the instruction of NDEA officers for the NIA operatives to hand over the substance to them during the cause of the operations at Kembujeh highway was uncalled for and it is high time for security forces to collaborate in eradicating crime in the country.

"The prosecution has failed woefully to prove the guilt of the accused persons. The accused persons Lamin Darboe, Ebrima Drammeh, Edrisa Jobe and Omar Jammeh are hereby discharged and acquitted", announced the presiding magistrate.

The state was represented by the Director of Special litigation, Daniel O Kulo, while Abdoulie Sissoho and Loubna Farage represented the defendants.

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