By Landing Ceesay
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Jally M.I. Senghore testified before Justice Basiru B.V.P Mahoney of the High Court of the Gambia in the alleged coup plotters’ trial.
ASP Senghore appeared as the Sixth Prosecution Witness (PW6) in the case involving 4 members of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) and a member of the Gambia Police Force (GPF).
The Four (4) Soldiers and one (1) Police Officer are accused of an attempted Coup and have been charged with 5 counts including treason.
The accused persons standing trial are; Lance Corporal Sanna Fadera (1st accused) Private Officer, Gibril Darboe (2nd accused) Corporal Ebrima Sannoh (3rd accused), and Corporal Omar Njie (4th accused), Fabakary Jawara (5th accused) is the lone Police Officer charged alongside the Soldiers.
Giving his testimony, ASP Senghore told the court that he recognized the accused persons and interacted with 4 of them as a member of the joint investigative panel set up to look into the December 2022 alleged attempted coup.
ASP Senghore told the court that the 4 accused persons he interacted with are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th accused persons.
ASP Senghore said he shared the same office with the 5th accused person at the Serious Crime Unit of the Gambia Police.
“Sometime in December 2022, I was tasked to join a task force to look into the alleged coup plot. On the 27th of December, 2022, we were sworn in as panel members to investigate the alleged coup plot and the investigation started that day. On that faithful day, by then the alleged coup plotters were arrested and they were under military custody. Their phones were brought before the panel and they were also brought before the panel.
“During that time, I participated in obtaining the cautionary and voluntary statements of Gibril Darboe (2nd accused). On that faithful day, Gibril Darboe was the first to meet the panel. He sat, and the independent witness as well. I gave him an option either to write his statement or write for him. He then indicated that I can write it. The cautionary wordings were read to him followed by obtaining his statement. Upon completion, the statement was given to him to read. He signed, I signed, and the Independent Witness also signed,” ASP Senghore told the court.
ASP Senghore told the court that the same procedure was followed in obtaining the 4th accused person’s (Omar Njie) cautionary and voluntary statements.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecution A.M Yusuf, the counsel representing the State (Prosecution) gave the cautionary and voluntary statements of the 2nd accused person (Gibril Darboe) to the witness for identification and the witness identified them as the ones he obtained from him.
Counsel A.M. Yusuf then applied to tender the cautionary and voluntary statements of the 2nd accused person (Gibril Darboe).
The defense team did not object to it and Justice Mahoney admitted them into evidence.
However, the counsel for 4th accused person (Omar Njie) Lawyer F.F. Jammeh objected to the admissibility of the cautionary and voluntary statements of his client when the counsel for the state applied to tender them into evidence.
“We are objecting to the admissibility of the cautionary statement. The fact that the 4th accused person speaks in the Mandinka language. When the statements were obtained from him. The 4th accused person cannot ascertain whether his wordings in the Mandinka language were the exact wordings translated into the English language.
“In the cautionary statement, there are certain key Mandinka words that are not translated into English. The very fundamental reason my client speaks in Mandinka is that he is going to face a very serious trial. That’s why he opted to speak in the language he understands very well. There are parts of the statement that were not said by the witness. Sadly, the witness was as well induced to make that statement. My lord, the laws are very clear about inducement when it comes to the voluntariness of the statement,” Counsel F.F. Jammeh argued.
Counsel F.F. Jammeh cited sections 31 and 33 of the Evidence Act. He told the court that the sections cited are very clear about the inducement of an accused person.
Counsel F.F Jammeh said the 4th accused person (Omar Njie) may not make a conclusive confession in the statement.
He argued that the cautionary wordings may have influenced that effect.
“The promises that were made to the 4th accused person were captured in the cautionary statement by the statement taker (ASP Senghore) and he was informed about it. The threat by some of the panel members was not captured in the statement by the statement taker and the 4th accused person (Omar Njie) narrated everything to him. My lord, captain Kanuteh was insulting him,” he argued.
Counsel A.M Yusuf for the state objected to Counsel F.F Jammeh’s submission saying that the defence is giving evidence from the Bar.
Counsel F.F. Jammeh insisted that he is not giving evidence from the Bar.
“I am not giving evidence from the Bar. Because some of these things are not captured that’s why I bring it up. He (Omar Njie) was invited to the police 3 times but he did not state when these promises were made to him. My lord, applying the judge’s rules is very important in obtaining a cautionary and voluntary statement. My lord, the cautionary statement was not taken in the presence of any Independent witness,” Counsel F.F. Jammeh argued.
Counsel for the 4th accused person said there is only a signature and telephone number on the cautionary statement which he said does not signify anyone as an independent witness.
In response to the defence counsel’s objection, the Counsel for the state said the defence counsel was not doing an objection but rather an interjection.
Counsel A.M. Yusuf urged the court to admit the said cautionary statement and overruled the defence counsel’s objection.
In his ruling on the objection, Justice Mahoney said the issues raised by the defense counsel are going to be determined later in the trial, not at this point.
Justice Mahoney then admitted both the cautionary and voluntary statements of the 4th accused person (Omar Njie).
The case was then adjourned to the 3rd of April 2023 for the cross-examination of the witness.