18 January 2013

Gambia: Court Martial to Rule On Trial of Two Soldiers

The two soldiers, Sergeant Manlafi Jarju and Corporal Karamo Jatta of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) standing trial before the General Court Martial on the charges of abusing their juniors was yesterday adjourned for ruling at the Yundum Military Barracks.

The Defence Counsel, Borry S. Touray, argued that the prosecution has failed to discharge the burden as the testimony of Sona Badjie is standing alone. He argued that the testimony does not have any support or foundation. He pointed that the testimony of PW1 in cross examination has completely shied away from PW2.

"It's the contention of PW1 that at all material times of her maltreatment Sona Jammeh (PW2) was present. That allegation, he said, has been denied by Sona Jammeh in cross examination where she said she was not aware", submitted Lawyer Borry S Touray, counsel for the first accused person.

Lawyer Touray argued that the witnesses allegedly present were called by the prosecution but denied the substance as untrue. He submitted that the court cannot rely on the oral allegation of Sona Badjie (PW1). He referred to her testimony as an allegation that the court cannot rely.

The defence counsel argued that no cogent explanation was provided for taking pleasure in punishing alleged victims. He further argued that no report of any complaint was mentioned to person in authority. He stressed that it was the contention of (PW2) that she does not even know how the complaint came to the authorities.

"The allegation of PW2 that she was given 100 strokes or lasses on her buttocks by the first accused is untrue. The evidence of falsehood lies in her own testimony", said Lawyer Touray.

Lawyer Touray has challenged the allegation of PW2 being punished because of her relation with PW1. He argued that the alleged victim under cross examination emphatically denied having any knowledge of punishment. He argued that the alleged victim was squashed by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

"That explains the genesis of this case that if not for the (NIA) interference there would never be this case", he submitted.

The defence counsel referred the court to the authority of Sunday Udoson against the state in Nigeria in 2007. He submitted that the testimony of Sergeant Buba Camara construed total falsehood as his evidence was denied by Sergeant Tamba. He urged the court to acquit and discharge the accused persons.

"I heard somebody saying 'don't bother' the court martial will never acquit and discharge anyone,' asserted Lawyer E. M Sissoho, counsel for the second accused.

Lawyer Sissoho argued that there are enough evidences before the court to vindicate the accused persons. He stressed that the main problem of the case is its lack of credibility. He asserted that the testimony of Sona Badjie (PW1) has lost all credibility.

The defence counsel recalled the genesis of Sona Badjie's evidence. He explained that the witness told the court that she was on parade when the accused came and asked for her. He mentioned that the witness claimed that she was called out of parade and was slapped and beaten for no reason.

"She did not complain to anybody about this incident but the matter was brought before the court martial in the form of a magic", he pointed out.

Lawyer Sissoho questioned the credibility of Sergeant Buba Camara's testimony in support of Sona Badjie (PW1). He argued that the witness could not tell the court the reason Sona Badjie was beaten even though he claimed to witness the incident. He mentioned that PW1 also could not tell the court the reason why she was beaten. He argued that if the alleged victim does not know why she was beaten, how would the court know. He quoted section 124 subsection 1of the Gambia Armed Forces Act. He read the Act, stating that any offence committed must be tried within 3 years. He submitted that the court is only speculating as it cannot establish when the incident took place.

The defence counsel argued that the case is not worth and it is below the dignity of a court martial. He urged the court to acquit and discharge the accused persons.

However, SH Barkun, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) referred the court to the evidence of PW1, PW2, PW3 and other witnesses. He argued that the state is relying on the evidence of these witnesses. He argued that the witnesses can be classified as authentic witnesses.

"The fact that PW1 did not report the case does not affect the credibility of the case", submitted SH Barkun, DPP.

The DPP argued that manifested evidence can be used in court as the witness is credible. He admitted that there may be an element of doubt but not every contradiction can adversely affect the prosecution's case. He referred the court to the various cases in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the case that was presided by panel of top army officials with Justice Mikailu Abdullah of the High Court has decided to adjourn the case for ruling on Tuesday 22nd January 2013.

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