14 March 2019

Gambia: At the Court-Martial - 'Whatsapp' Case Set for Judgment

The 'WhatsApp' case involving twelve members of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) who are charged with nine counts of treason, mutiny, endeavour to persuade members of the Gambia Armed Forces to take part in mutiny, is set for judgement on Friday March 15th 2019.

The decision was unanimously taken by a quorum of senior military judges after the Judge Advocate Sainabou Sise Wadda, summed up the facts and evidence presented during the course of the trial.

When the case was called, MB Abubakar with Capt. A. Njie and E R Dougan, appeared for the state while Counsel Sheriff Kumba Jobe together with Capt. Suwaibou Jammeh, Capt. Babucar Bah, Capt. Momodou Demba, Capt. Kebba Jabbi and Capt. Cham Samateh, represented the accused persons.

In summing up the facts and evidence presented during the course of the trial, the judge advocate Sainabou Sise Wadda, harped summarily on the testimonies of all the prosecution and defense witnesses and reminded the Military judges that the decision to convict or pardon the accused persons, lies with them. She however, highlighted her role in the trial as a guide and adviser on points of Law. She went on to advise her colleagues in the panel that their judgement must be based on facts and evidence presented beyond any reasonable doubt; that as a matter of fact, the burden of proof lies in the prosecution but that they are not obliged to accept the whole evidence of the prosecution or defense witnesses; that they may accept part or reject part of it. Justice Wadda cited Section 108 of the Constitution which defines facts of the Court Martial; that such a crucial decision must be determined by Military Judges.

"It is your duty to find the accused persons guilty or not guilty. You must be sure that the accused persons are guilty," she told them. The Judge Advocate further advised her colleagues to pay particular attention to the evidence in chief of PW5 Dinno Sanneh, as he was mentioned by the defense Counsel as part of the suspects and was arrested in connection to the same matter under trial. "If after all you find the accused persons guilty, then your verdict is guilty," she advised. According to her, the military judges when going over the evidence and facts of both the prosecution and defense witnesses, said they would need to treat exhibit T and S of Dinno with extra caution.

"Judgement must not be based on probabilities," she advised members of the quorum. She continued to advise caution on exhibit S and T, as it does not feature the telephone number of the sixth accused person, Lance Corporal Sambujang Bojang. Justice Sise Wadda further highlighted that PW10 and PW6 both gave exhibit G1 and G2 against the ninth accused person, Sgt Yarro Jatta, but advised that they need to carefully note that exhibit G1 and G2´, cannot corroborate the evidence made by PW10 against the ninth accused person. "You need to see whether exhibit G1 and G2, corroborated exhibit M1 and M2," she advised.

Readers can recall twelve members of GAF have been appearing before a General Court Martial at the Yundum Military Barracks since 2017, on allegation of creating a WhatsApp group with intention to over throw the Government of President Adama Barrow. The prosecution has advanced during the course of the trial that the accused persons had meetings in Lamin and at the AU village in Bijilo, where the lead accused resided at the time, to lay down their planned coup. The coup according to prosecution, was set to take place on July 22nd 2017.

All accused persons deny involvement and other charges against them.

The case was adjourned to Friday March 15th 2019 for judgement, at 9:30 am.

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