Thursday, May 3, 2012

Religious Leaders Have Passed Judgment In The Unnatural Offence Case

Dawda Faye of The Point
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
I was surprised on Friday 27th April, 2012, when I saw on the TV two religious leaders condemning the 20 accused persons facing two counts of unnatural offence and conspiracy to commit felony.

One of them said in his sermon that the accused persons are men who made love to their fellow men. He stated that they will be punished by God- He went on to say that even the lawyers who are defending them and the sureties who bailed them will be punished by God. 
He further said that people should not associate with the accused persons because they have committed a sin against God.

The statements made by the religious leader are misleading. How can   God punish the accused persons who have not been proven guilty? 

The accused persons have the right to be granted bail by virtue of section 99 (1) of the criminal procedure Code (CPC). This is why Magistrate Tabally of the Kanifing Magistrates` Court granted them bail, because, according to him, the offence is bailable. Their sureties have the right to bail them since they have met all the conditions to bail them.

Their lawyers, namely, Badou S.M. Conteh, Lamin S. Camara, Abdoulie Sissoho, Salieu Taal, Kombeh Gaye-Coker and Ngui Janneh are honorable and well respected Lawyers.

The 1997 constitution has bestowed on the accused persons the right to be defended by these lawyers.
The religious leader who said that God will punish the accused persons should know that the accused persons are only facing an allegation and they have not been found guilty yet.  

An accused person is presumed innocent until he is found guilty or he pleads guilty, by virtue of section 24 of the constitution of The Gambia.

The statement of the religious leader is prejudicing the case. It also baseless, as he said that the accused persons are men who made love to their fellow men.  

In fact, the first prosecution witness in the case, Inspector Abdoulie Sowe, never stated in his evidence that the accused persons are men who made love to their fellow men.

The witness on the 19th April, 2012, told the court that he was at home on the 6th April, 2012, between 11pm  and midnight when he received a telephone call from the security branch, Superintendant Colonel Mbye, who instructed him to report to Kotu Police Station.

Upon arrival, he found Mbye with Detective Abdoulie Dibba, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Pa Sowe, and some colleagues of their unit.

He said there were some people that were said to be homosexuals, who had organised themselves in a place around Duplex in the Kololi area.

He testified that Mbye instructed him to go with Abdoulie Dibba and Pa Sowe to the place and investigate.
He said upon arrival he and Abdoulie Dibba got seated somewhere within the premises, while he went and sat at the bar, with his digital camera, and got himself a drink.

He added that he observed, and saw the accused persons dressed in a female dress, dancing and moving like women.

He said he took a picture, and that after a couple of minutes he was approached by one of the accused, Kebba Ceesay, who asked why he was taking photographs. He stated that he told Kebba Ceesay that he liked what he was seeing, because it was the first time to see men dressed like women.

He narrated further that Kebba Ceesay asked him to delete the photo, adding that they would not accept taking their photo.

He testified that he told Kebba that he would not delete it, and then took another picture.

He said Kebba Ceesay then insisted that he deletes the photos, and that when he asked why, Kebba Ceesay told him that what they were doing was against state policy.

The witness told the court that he used his discretion as a police officer, and got Kebba Ceesay out of the bar, to where they parked their car.

He added that ASP Pa Sowe found them there, and instructed him and Abdoulie Dibba to arrest Kebba Ceesay.

This is the testimony of the witness in summary. He had never mentioned that he found the accused persons making love to their fellow men.

The religious leader got it all wrong. The case presently is before a court of law. The magistrate will listen to the prosecution witnesses, and after the prosecution has closed their case, the accused persons will also open their case, and the magistrate will hear them.

But if the lawyers of the accused persons at the end of the case of the prosecution feel that the prosecution witnesses have not helped the prosecution to prove the ingredients or elements of the offence with which the accused persons are being charged, then the defence counsels can file a no- case submission under section 166 of the criminal procedure code (CPC). By doing so, the accused persons will not give evidence, meaning they will not open their defence.

Then the magistrate will rule whether the accused persons have a case to answer. If he rules that they have no case to answer, he will then discharge and acquit them.

On the other hand, if he rules that they have a case to answer, he will ask them to open their defence.
After closing their defence, the magistrate will weigh the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and that of the defence, and finally makes his judgment.

This is how matters stand. The religious leader should refrain from prejudicing the case.

Source: The Daily News
The author, Dawda Faye, is a Senior Judicial correspondent for THE POINT and a regular contributor to THE DAILY NEWS.

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