13 March 2019

Gambia: Forensic Expert Testifies in NIA 9 Case

Samuel Ferera, a Brazilian Forensic Pathologist and Medical Doctor, yesterday March 12th 2019, told the High Court that after conducting a DNA test, he confirmed the remains of Solo Sandeng.

Dr. Ferera is the 31st Prosecution Witness in the ongoing criminal trial involving former intelligence chiefs who are standing trial on numerous offences ranging from conspiracy to commit felony, assault causing grievous bodily harm, murder and making false documents amongst others, in which they all denied wrongdoing.

Dr. Ferera said he became a Medical Doctor in 1991 and became a forensic pathologist in 2002.

He told the crowded Courtroom that he works several years as a scientific coordinator to the Brazilian Ministry of Human Rights violations; that he visited the Gambia on two occasions with the first one when he was invited to participate in the identification of the human remains of the late Solo Sandeng. The witness said the first day when he arrived, he went to the Ministry of Justice where he was introduced to the Minister and after he had a meeting with the staff; that he was then taken to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul where he was introduced to the Director of the hospital.

Dr. Ferera told the Court that as his mission was to examine bones, he collected the bones and tooth of the deceased and put them in a special device and sealed it; that he then put the sealed device in a box and labelled it.

He said he collected blood and saliva samples from the son and daughters of the late Solo Sandeng who were introduced to him at the hospital. Dr. Ferera said he put the samples on a special device and sealed them and put them in a box; that he sealed the box and labelled it too.

The 31st prosecution witness told the Court that he handed over the boxes to one Thomas Gomes and the Minister of Justice; that some weeks later, he received the two boxes the same way he left them here in the Gambia; that they were sealed and labelled the way he left them.

He said he opened the boxes and found that the items were well preserved; that he examined the samples and double checked every step he went through during the examination. He said their chief examiner did the testing in a different way and the results were the same.

The witness told the Court that an X-ray and the DNA from the cells of the bones collected were tested; that they did the same with the samples they took from the family members of the Late Solo Sandeng (the son and daughters); that after all the process, they found out that the results were all the same. He said he identified the results from the DNA of the bone cells, and saw that they have the same characters with the DNA from the blood samples collected from the son and daughters of the late Solo Sandeng; that they then came up with a result that those remaining, were from the body of the late Solo Sandeng. He said after finishing their work, he wrote a report which contained all the steps they took, to carry out the test.

"Where is the report you prepared?" asked the prosecution Lawyer RY Mendy.

The witness responded that it is with him; that the report contains three signatures of him, the Director of the DNA laboratory where the test was made, and the the Vice Director of the DNA laboratory.

Lawyer RY Mendy then tendered the document to the Court and it was accepted and marked as Exhibit O.

During cross-examination by Lawyer Christopher E. Mene, the witness was asked to tell the Court the person who identified Aminata Sandeng as a relative to the Late Solo Sandeng.

The witness in response said the family was introduced to him at the hospital; that this has not been captured in the report.

Lawyer Mene put it to the witness that no staff introduced Aminata Sandeng to him.

The accused persons in this case are Yankuba Badjie, an ex-director of the NIA, Sheikh Omar Jeng, an ex-director of operations at the NIA, Baboucar Sallah, Haruna Suso, Tamba Mansareh, Lamin Darboe, and Lamin Lang Sanyang. The 2nd accused person, Louise Gomez, an ex-deputy director of the said agency, died whilst under the custody of the State, during the course of this trial. However, Yusupha Jammeh, the 6th accused person was acquitted by the Court upon the State's application for his acquittal.

Sittings continue today at 1 pm.

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