Sierra Leone: Treason Trialpalo Conteh's Gluck 17 Pistol Tendered in Court

The retired major is facing the High Court for treason

The Exhibit Clerk attached to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Headquarters has tendered the Gluck 17 pistol with ten rounds of ammunition that was allegedly in possession of Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh at the time he went to State House for a meeting with President Bio.

Inspector Nathanial D. Williams, who is the third prosecution witness in the ongoing treason trial of Palo Conteh and two others, told the High Court presided over by Justice Alhaji Momo Jah Stevens that on March 23, 2020 whilst on duty at the CID headquarters, he received the said exhibits from one detective constable 15105 Sesay .A.

The witness said the Gluck 17 pistol has a serial No. EFEF 240 and that the ammunition was counted before it was handed over to him by the investigating officer.

He said on that same day he also received Gluck 21 pistol with serial No. LUX 841 Austra plus two empty magazines, one damaged locker, and a firearms license bearing the name of the first accused, Palo Conteh.

He told the court that he registered all the items in the court exhibit book and since then the items have been in his custody.

At that juncture, defense counsel, Joseph .F. Kamara objected to the tendering of the Gluck 21 pistol claiming that it does not form part of the evidence before the court.

Even though lead prosecution lawyer J.K. Sesay countered the objection made by his colleague on the other side, the judge upheld the objection of the defense.

The judge noted that the said exhibit is inconsistent with the evidence before the court, thus it shouldn't be tendered.

The fourth prosecution witness 18178870 Staff Sergeant Dauda Yemi identified himself as Security Officer attached to State House and the Presidential Lodge and also a close security to President Bio.

He said on the 19th March, 2020 whilst on duty at State House, the Chief Security Officer handed over to him names of people that were supposed to attend a meeting with the President.

He said at that time himself, Police Constable Gbakie, Sergeant Kposowa and Ngiama were all at the entrance of the reception.

He said whilst at the reception he saw the first accused coming but didn't go through the normal process by placing his bag on the Metal detector and go through the scanning machine as he was in a rush.

He said the first accused went straight to him at the reception and handed over a bag and explained that he has a personal pistol in it and that he didn't want to go with it in the meeting.

He said whilst the first accused was still discussing with him, the scanning machine and Metal detect controller Police Constable Gbakie called the attention of the accused to scan the bag before he proceeds upstairs for the meeting.

The witness said after the first accused had left the bag, he took it to the scanning machine and discovered that there was a gun in it.

He told the court that he took the pistol to the head of Security at State House, Lieutenant Colonel M.M Kposowa for his information.

During cross examination, the prosecutor, Adrian Fisher asked the witness if he could identify the bag that the first accused gave him, he said yes, but when the bag was shown to him for it to be tendered, he said that was not the bag the first accused gave him.

One of the defense counsels, Ady Macaulley asked the witness if the first accused gave him the bag when he approached him at the reception, he said yes.

The defense lawyer also enquired from the witness as to why he failed to mention Ngaima in his statement, but has done so in his testimony, the witness insisted that he did make mention of him.

Lawyers for second and third accused did not cross examine the witness.

Earlier, lawyer Joseph .F. Kamara had applied for a locus visit to State House so that the court would have knowledge on the position of the reception, and the scanning Machine and Metal Detector.

However, the State didn't object to the said application, but the judge ruled that they would find conducive date for the visit to State House.

The trial, which started on Thursday, March 21st, 2020 has seen four witnesses testified already.

The first witness was the investigator, Detective Superintendent Mohamed .K. Alieu who tendered the statement of the first accused on Tuesday 26th May, 2020.

He said on the 19th March 2020, he was at the CID when Chief Superintendent J.K Alpha instructed him to form a team of investigators and follow him to State House.

He said when they arrived at State House; they were ushered in by Lieutenant Colonel M.M Kposowa-the Director of the Joint Presidential Guard Force to the waiting room where the first accused was seating with some other people.

He said Colonel M. M. Kposowa handed over to him a brown bag which contains a Gluck 17 pistol and 10 rounds ammunition which he counted in front of the first accused and asked him whether he owns the bag and the gun.

He told the court that together with detective Inspector Aminata Kamara, they obtained statement from the accused at State House.

He said the accused admitted owing the gun and added that he has a valid license for it.

He said the accused told them that he came to State House because he was supposed to have a meeting with the President.

The witness said the accused told him that when he arrived at State House he was approached by some carwash boys to clean his car which he accepted.

He said the accused said in his statement that he declared the brown bag containing the pistol to the security guard at the entrance, but they advised him to go with it.

The witness said after the statement was obtained, bail was granted to the accused in his own recognizance and was called again on 20th March, 2020, for further statement.

He added that the accused went his lawyer, Ady Macaulay and after the statement his bail was withdrawn as they were investigating the matter.

Superintendent M.K .Alieu noted that on the 29h March 2020 that the first accused was contemporaneously interviewed and charged with the Offences of treason with the directive of the law officers department.

He explained that the accused said he is not afraid of anything because he did not have any intention to assassinate the president, citing that he has gone through the due process of obtaining license for the pistol he was using.

During his cross examination by the defense lawyer, J.F. Kamara, the witness denied that he didn't meet Rtd. Major Palo Conteh with the brown bag containing the pistol, but that it was given to him by the head of the Joint Presidential Guard Force (JPGF) Colonel Kposowa.

The witness also denied that the pistol in question was not in safety mode when it was handed over to him by Colonel Kposowa and that it was him that put it to safety mode.

When asked how he went to the conclusion of charging the first accused with treason, the witness said it was an advice from the Law Officers Department headed by the Director of Public Prosecution.

Another witness who had also testified is Police Constable 14814 Kemo Gbakie, who controlled the scanning machine and metal detector at State House.

He recognized the first accused person, Rtd. Major Palo Conteh as his former boss at the Ministry of Internal Affair, but he did not recognize the second and third accused persons.

He said on that day at round 6:00am, one of the heads of the Security at State House informed him that was going to be a press Conference at State house at round 9am and a list containing the attendees was given to him.

He said the first accused, Rtd. Major Palo Conteh was in a rush when he arrived at State House, and could neither pass through the scanner nor drop his bag at the metal detect.

He said it was one of his colleagues that interrogated the first accused and in the process he saw a bag in his possession which he asked him to drop it in the scanning machine.

He said the bag was immediately handed over to his colleague, staff Sergeant Kposwa who went with it upstairs to inform the head of the JPGF.

He was crossed examined Dr. Abdulai .O. Conteh.

Retired Alfred Paolo Conteh, Retired Colonel Saa Anthony Sinnah and Prince George Jusu, are before the court to answer to 16 count charges ranging from treason, possession of unlicensed firearms, perjury, to importation of small arms without valid license, but they have denied the charges.

The men are tried by a judge and a twelve-man jury.

The state is represented by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Pricilla Schwartz,Director of Public Prosecution, Easmon Ngakui, Adrian Fisher and J.A.K Sesay while the defense team includes Dr. Abdulai O.Conteh, Joseph F. Kamara former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and Ady Macaulley,

The matter has been adjourned until Monday 1st June, 2020.

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