Gambia: Court Martial - Soldier Denies Being Inexperienced

The Third Prosecution Witness (PW3), Pharing M.S. Sanyang has refuted the defence lawyer's claim that he (PW3) is an inexperienced investigator in the trial involving 12 military officers.

The 12 military officers were arraigned before a panel of five at the Yundum Military Camp. The court-martial is composed of Colonel Salifu Bojang as the President and Lieutenant Colonel Seedy Joof, Major Lamin K. Sanyang who was replaced by Captain Awa Bah due to his absence in court, Major Abdoulie Manneh and Major Basiru Sarr as members; whilst the waiting members are Lieutenant Colonel Mai Touray, Captain A. Dacosta and Captain Awa Bah. Sainabou Ceesay-Wadda is the Judge Advocate.

Lawyer Sheriff Kumba Jobe appeared for the accused persons with Captains Suwaibou Jammeh, Bubacar Bah, Momodou Demba, Kebba Jabbie and Ansumana J. Sanyang, Lieutenants William Demba and Abdoulie K. Conteh. A.N Yusuf appeared for the State with Captain A.N Njie and Yusupha Jallow.

PW3 agreed with the defence lawyer's claim that Catherine Gadoki, the lead investigator in the alleged matter was more experienced than him, adding that this investigation was his first. When Lawyer Jobe asked him to state the reasons regarding how he became part of the investigation team, his response was, "unless you ask those who chose me".

The witness also agreed with the defence lawyer's claim that before he commenced investigation, he should have been given terms of reference for his services adding "If the Court asked you to produce the document (terms of reference) will you be able to do so"? asked Lawyer Jobe.

"I am not sure if I can" PW3 replied.

Counsel Jobe further asked for the reasons why he cannot produce the document, the witness was silent over the question.

Lawyer Jobe told him that he (PW3) cannot produce the document because it has never existed which the witness denied saying 'it existed'. The witness told the Court that his investigation was based on finding out who has posted the images on Facebook and the reasons for that.

Counsel Jobe asked him whether at Fajara Barracks military officials sell tree logs which the witness replied, "since I was deployed at that Barracks, I have never seen people commercializing trees".

The witness agreed with the Defence Lawyer that the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) do not cut down trees and process them for sale.

Still under cross-examination, the witness told the Court-Martial that he didn't know any tree that was cut down under the instruction of Ensa Tamba, a senior military officer.

The witness, refuted Lawyer Jobe's claim that Ensa Tamba instructed for the trees to be cut down and be commercialized, saying 'I knew nothing about it and he never told me about it'.

The defence lawyer told him that, as a duty officer he could have taken record of evidence for something that he was not comfortable with in case of the future. In his response, PW3 replied saying 'that is not the way we operate as officers in the Army'.

"In the Army you do not collect evidence of a particular happening in case of a case?" Lawyer Jobe asked.

"In the Army as duty officers, when something happens we normally pass the information to the relevant authorities" PW3 said.

The Fourth Prosecution Witness, identified himself as Captain Alhajie Camara of GAF and a resident of Farato Village, Kombo South District.

In his evidence in chief, he told the Court-Martial that on the 18th July, 2017, he was engaged by his authorities to join a team of investigators at the National Intelligence Agency (now SIS) headquarters adding that upon his arrival (at SIS headquarters) he found members of the Gambia Police Force (GPF), SIS personnel and some GAF members.

He said before the investigation commenced at the SIS, a preliminary report was sent to the joint board at the SIS to investigate the issues of the accused persons. During the investigation at the SIS head office, he took the cautionary statements of four accused persons namely the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the 12th accused persons. The witness told the Court-Martial that the cautionary statements of the four accused persons were taken voluntarily, signed by the accused persons, an independent witness and himself (PW4). The documents were shown to PW4 which he identified as his cautionary statements that he took from the four accused persons. The documents were tendered in court but Lawyer Jobe objected and sought the Court to allow trial within trial (voir dire) in the case of the second and third accused persons, regarding the voluntary cautionary statement of the 2nd and 3rd accused persons. The Court admitted the cautionary statements of the 1st and 4th accused persons as exhibits B and C whilst it granted the Voir Dire for the 2nd and 3rd accused persons.

The case was adjourned to today for continuation of hearing at 9:30am.

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