Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lt General Tamba and Co. Appeared in High Court


Accused Persons Pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ To Charges of Treason

Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) Lieutenant General Langtombong Tamba, the former Chief of Defence Staff of The Gambia Armed Forces, and Seven others charged with treason  appeared before Justice Emmanuel Amadi at the High Court in Banjul on Friday 19th  March 2010, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to all three charges preferred against them.

Former Chief of Defence Staff of The Gambia Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Langtombong Tamba, Brigadier General Ndure Cham, Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye, Conlonel Lamin B.O. Badjie, Colonel Kawsu  Camara, Modou Gaye former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Gibrile Ngorr Secka, Abdoulie Joof, Youssef Ezziddine and Omar Camara were charged with three Counts of treason.

Count one: Conspiracy to commit treason contrary to Section 35 (1) (G) of the Criminal Code Cap 10 Volume III Laws of The Gambia 1990. The particulars of  offence state that the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Langtombong Tampa, Brigadier General Ndure Cham, Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye, Conlonel Lamin BO Badjie, Conlonel Kawsu Camara, Modou Gaye former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Gibrile Ngorr Secka, Abdoulie Joof, Youssef Ezziddine and Omar Camara and others now at large on diverse dates between 1st January and 19th  December 2009 at Bijilo and other places, conspired to stage a coup  d’état and overthrow the president and the democratically elected government of the Republic of The Gambia by force of arms.
Count two: Treason contrary to Section 35(1) (a) of the Criminal Code Cap 10 Volume III Laws
of The Gambia 1990. The particulars of offence stated that the ten aforementioned persons and others now at
large on diverse dates between1st January and 19th December 2009, procured arms and ammunition, equipment and mercenaries from Guinea, Conakry and other places to stage a coup d’état
and overthrow the president and the democratically elected government of The Republic of The Gambia. 
Count three: Treason contrary to Section 35 (1) (d) of the Criminal Code Cap 10 Volume III Laws of The Gambia 1990. The particulars of offence stated that Lt General Langtombong Tamba, Brigadier General Ndure Cham, Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye, Conlonel Lamin BO Badjie, Lieutenant Conlonel Kawsu
Camara, Modou Gaye former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Gibrile Ngorr Secka, Abdoulie Joof, Youssef Ezziddine and Omar Camara and others now at large on diverse dates between 1st January and 19th December 2009, procured arms and ammunition, equipment and mercenaries from Guinea, Conakry and other places to stage a coup d’état an overthrow the president and the democratically elected government of the Republic of The Gambia. The ten accused persons and others now at large on various dates between 1st January 2009 held meeting at  the houses of Langtombong Tamba in The Gambia, where discussions were
made and an agreement reached and detailed plans were laid for the overthrow of the president and the Government of The Gambia by force of arms. Abdoulie Joof and Youssef Ezziddine were assigned the role of
financing the coup plot. Former Chief of Defence Staff, Langtombong Tamba and BO Badjie were among other things assigned the role of purchasing the equipment such as vehicles, arms, ammunition, hire personnel and effect assault on The Gambia from Guinea Bissau so as to actualize the coup plot.

However, when the case was called, the Director of Public Prosecution Richard Chenge announced his representation for the state, while Lawyer Awa Sisse Sabally announced her representation of the 8th
accused Abdoulie Joof and Lawyer Sheriff Tambedou for the seven accused person Youssef Ezziddine, while the six others including General Tamba were without counsels.

The DPP applied for the amendment of the charge sheet, noting that the 2nd and 10th accused person Brigadier General Ndure Cham and Omar Camara need to be excluded from the charge sheet as ‘the two are seeking refuge in Senegal.’

Lawyer Tambedou argued that the accused persons were served with the charge sheet barely 24 hours before their appearance in court. He then applied that the accused person be allowed to get access to counsels before taking their plea.

However, the DPP Chenge argued that since plea cannot be taken now, then there is no need to insist
that the accused persons are without counsels.

At this point, Justice Amadi, former Brikama Magistrates’ Court Judge noted that the accused persons are entitled to defence counsels and if they cannot afford one, the state will provide them with defence counsels.

Defence counsel Awa Sisse-Sabally submitted that the defence be given more time to prepare because the preparation includes having legal advice before plead is taken. She urged the court to allow the accused persons to get counsels before pleading. She also argued that the offence charged is a serious one and it carried the death penalty or imprisonment for life.

“The constitution makes it clear that there should be fair play in court as accused persons are to be prosecuted and not persecuted”, she said.

She referred the Court Section 24(3) (1) of the Constitution of The Gambia 1997, noting that every person charged with a criminal offence shall be given the chance to afford the services of a legal adviser. She also
argued that an accused person shall start his defence preparation as soon as he is charged.
However, DPP Chenge asked how can an accused person start their defence when plea
is not taken. Justice Amadi at this point noted that under normal criminal proceedings, the accused persons are not entitled to sit down.

He noted that he wants the proceeding to be taken smoothly for the fact that the constitution presumes the accused persons innocent until proven guilty.

The argument arouse after lawyer Tambedou submitted that the accused persons be allowed to sit down. However, the judge noted that the accused persons themselves should have told him as the judge that they want to
sit, instead of telling it to lawyer Tambedou.

Justice Amadi then asked whether any of the accused persons have requested to sit down, lawyer Awa Sisse-Sabally then informed the court that the 7th accused, Lie Joof is ill and has even brought along his
medical report. At this point, the judge asked Lie Joof to sit and the rest of the accused persons to sit down, saying “you can all sit down for today.”

The accused persons, who pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them, also mention that they have been denied access to legal counsels and family members during four months in detention.

“We have not been allowed to access our family members since our arrest,” General Tamba Said. However, the judge said to him that they have not reached that stage of the trial yet.

The 8th accused person, Youssef Ezziddine also said, ‘just like a dream for me, I don’t know what I am here for”, after pleading not guilty to Count One.

General Tamba also argued that he cannot understand the difference between count two and three, saying that the charges are the same. DPP Chenge admitted that the charges are the same but noted that it has been
charged under different sections of the constitution.

Justice Amadi suggests that the two lawyers can represent all the accused persons instead of having eight lawyers for the eight accused persons. His comments came after all the accused persons have earlier said they
want a lawyer each.

“I don’t want the case to last for more than two months, I therefore ordered that the case be held on a daily basis from Monday, March 22, 2010,” he said. Counsel Sabally at this point made an application for his
client not to be remanded as he is very ill, “and he is a high risk patient for
cardiac arrest.”

“My application is that we must have a balanced fact of the plight of the accused, my client need to be not to be remanded due to his health condition,” she said. “He nearly collapses,” she added.

The Judge noted that he cannot make an order concerning lawyer Sabally’s arguments at this stage of the trial. However, Lawyer Sabally noted that she is applying for a special order of confinement for her client
who is ill.

Lawyer Tambedou also urged the Court to allow the accused persons have access to lawyers and their immediate families. General Tamba also urges the court to implore on the prison officers to let them have access to
their families.

After the issue of having legal representation and accessing family members continued to be highlighted by both the 1st accused person and the lawyers, Justice Emanuel Amadi then ruled that prison officers
should allow the accused person’s access to lawyers and family members.

However, the head of the prison security officers present in court insisted that an application be made to the Director of Prisons for the accused person to be given access to lawyers and family members.

The judge finally ruled that the accused persons be allowed access to lawyers with prison conditions at large. He ordered for the accused persons to be remanded pending trial.

The case continues today, March 22, 2010. Vol:2 Issn:142

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