Corporal Karamo Jatta, the second accused person standing trial before the Court Martial at the Yundum Barracks, on Wednesday 9 January, opened his defence before the Court and was cross examined by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), S.H. Barkun. The fifth defence witness Sergeant Adama Jatta Camara was also cross examined by the DPP.
Lance Corporal Baboucarr Manjang also testified as a defence witness in the case.
Under cross examination, Sergeant Adama Jatta Camara speaking in fluent English, said she did not know Jarra Sowe neither Sona Jammeh and no one has ever reported this matter to her. She denied that Sona Jammeh was given 100 strokes by Corporal Jatta in her presence, adding that she was in Bravo company and Sona Badjie and Jarra Sowe were in Alpha company. She added that she cannot give instruction to them as they were not in the same company. DPP asked: "So you now know Sona Jammeh?" Sergeant Jatta said: "As you mentioned their names here". DPP asked, "Do you know the military policy of collective responsibility?" Sergeant Jatta Camara said: "At the training school, what I know is that if one does all pays". DPP asked, "Does it mean that if one does all pays apply to instructors?" Sergeant Jatta Camara said, "That does not happen to instructors, because they are professional soldiers and know the dos and don'ts. If any instructor comes late, you pay it on your own". Dpp asked, "I put it to you that you only come here to cover up Manlafi Jarju, because you do things together?" Sergeant Jatta Camara said, I said I did not know sergeant Jarju because we do not do things together". DPP said, "So you did not know Sergeant Jarju as you did not know Sona Jammeh and Jarra Sowe?" Sergeant Jatta Camara said, "I only know Sergeant Jarju as my senior man. I did not know Sona Jammeh and Jarra Sowe, because we were not in the same battalion or company and we never do things together during their training".
DPP further asked, "Are these battalions at the same training school or different school?" Sergeant Jatta Camara said, "They are at the same training school, but if the other is at the school, the other would be at the bush or somewhere else. They never do things together" DPP said: "I further put it to you that your testimony is nothing but a bundle of lies". Sergeant Jatta Camara said: "All what I said here is the truth and only the truth".
However, when the sixth defence witness (DW6), Jarra Sowe was called to give her evidence, she told the Court that she is not in a clean position due to nature to hold the Holy Quran and swear. The president of the Court Colonel Gomez ruled and ordered her to come back whenever she is clean enough to swear to the Quran.
The second accused person, Corporal Karamo Jatta giving his evidence in chief in English, told the Court that he joined the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), on 23 September 2002 and finished training on 23 January 2003. He said after his passing out he was posted at the first infantry battalion at the Yundum barracks and in 2004 to the training school as an instructor to recruit raw civilians into soldiers. He indicated that at the training school, they taught physical training exercises, combat, weapon, field trainings and Para Military duties. He said he has participated in the trainings of 4 intakes and others that he did not complete the training with. He stated that he was involved in the training of intakes 26, 27 A-B, 28 A-B-C, 29 A-B, but was not around during intake 30. He added that he only joined intake 30 when they were on rehearsal for passing out. He noted that he trained intake 31A and started with intake 32A, but did not finish with them. He indicated that he joined intake 30 on 3 January 2010, but cannot say much about them. He added that he was in Turkey from 4 November 2008 to 22 July 2009. He asserted that he was supposed to return to Turkey, but was informed by the Operation Commander Brigadier General O.B. Mbye that they were working on a protocol matter with Turkey and if they are done he would be called on.
Going further, Corporal Karamo Jatta pointed out that he is not familiar with members of intake 30, because he was not assigned to them to do anything. He said he did not know the two complainants Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh, but only came to know them in Court. He denied the allegation that he did removed Sona Jammeh from the parade and administered beating on her.
During cross examination DPP Barkun said, "Mr Karamo, will be right to say that because you were not assigned to any of these companies, you were accessible virtually to all the companies and battalions". Corporal Jatta said, "That is not possible because I was very junior to have access to all companies. Only 3 people have access to that, that are the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), Chief Instructor and Commandant of the training school". DPP said, "But you were rendering some kind of assistance to some instructors". Corporal Jatta said, "No, I never did such". DPP asked, "You said you met them when they were on rehearsal, is that part of the training?" Corporal Jatta said: "No, rehearsal is not part of training". DPP said, "Mr. Karamo, I thought rehearsal is to review what has been achieved during the training?" Corporal Jatta said, No, not all the training activities. Rehearsal is only in foot and arms training". DPP asked, "You have witnessed a kind of review of parade for recruits?" Corporal Jatta said, "Yes I do". DPP asked, "For how long were they on parade rehearsal?" Corporal Jatta said, "I cannot remember that because I met them on rehearsals". DPP asked, "How long were you there before their passing out?" Corporal Jatta said, "I cannot remember that". DPP asked, "Do you know one Corporal Manjang and Buba Camara?" Corporal Jatta said, "Yes I know them as instructors at the training school".
DPP further asked: "When you say to change raw civilians into soldiers, is it to insert some Military discipline in them?" Corporal Jatta said, "That is right". DPP said, "Discipline, I suppose is part of training at the Military training school?" Corporal Jatta said, "Yes Sir". DPP said, "I would also be right to say that such kind of discipline is imparted on all instructors?" Corporal Jatta said, "Not all instructors, because a junior instructor cannot instill discipline on a recruit". DPP asked, "What determines a recruit or civilian to be a soldier?" Corporal Jatta said, "After giving an 'eyes right' to his excellency the president, you then become a professional soldier". DPP asked: "Will I be right to say that during recruitment you are a soldier?" Corporal Jatta, "That is not right". DPP said: "So the person who is given an appointment letter, is he or she a member of Gambia Armed Forces?" Corporal Jatta said: "The person cannot be given an appointment letter and be called a soldier".
At this stage, DPP Barkun demanded the appointment letter of Sona Badjie, which is an exhibit before the Court and asked to read the heading on it. Corporal Karamo Jatta reads: "Recruitment into The Gambia Armed Forces". DPP asked, "What does that mean?" Corporal Jatta said, "It means training civilians to become soldiers of GAF". He was asked to read out the entire content of the letter, which he did. DPP said: "I put it to you that, that is not an admission letter into GAF". Corporal Jatta said, "I did not know anything about that". DPP asked, "I further put it to you that training into GAF training school is secondary to recruitment into GAF". Corporal Jatta said, "I'm not aware of that". DPP said, "I put it to you that you have subjected your subordinate Sona Jammeh to various acts of maltreatment during the training of intake 30". Corporal Jatta said, "When they were on training I was not there. I only joined them when they were on rehearsals". DPP said: "So i will be right to say that you only subjected her to maltreatment during rehearsals?" Corporal Jatta said, "I say I never knew her".
Another defence witness, Lance Corporal Baboucarr Manjang testified in Mandinka and said he joined GAF on 7 May 2004 and was posted at Gambia National Guards [GNG) battalion at Fajara barracks and after sitting for VIP protection course he was moved to State House. Lance Corporal Manjang said during his tenure at GNG he worked as a sentry man. Manjang stated that he was later attached to the training school for teaching recruits and has participated in the recruitment of intake 29 A and B, but did not complete with B when he left for a mission in Sudan. He was part of the trainers of intake 30 and was in Alpha Company and knows both accused persons at the training school. He said he worked with Sergeant Manlafi Jarju at the training school during the recruitment of intake 30, but by then Corporal Karamo Jatta was not in any of the Companies. He added that he knows both Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh because they were in his platoon. He indicated that he is an AK47 weapon instructor at the training school. Manjang said every morning after breakfast before the arrival of the seniors, he would conduct a muster parade to inquire from the recruits about who is sick and not fit and he would bring those concerns to attention of the seniors. He said he conducted this with the assistance of other Lance Corporals. He indicated that he has never seen Corporal karamu Jatta at his platoon and Sona Badjie never took permission from him to go and see Corporal Jatta as alleged by her. He concluded that intake 30 reported to the training school on 3 May 2009, but could not recalled the date of their passing out.
Cross examination and hearing continues today.