Soldiers want their Sentences to be quashed
8 soldiers who were convicted on treason, mutiny and other crimes in their appeal before the Gambia Court of Appeal want their conviction by the court-martial to be invalidated.
The 12 soldiers were convicted on Treason, Incitement to mutiny, Failure to report mutiny, Conspiracy to commit mutiny and Endeavour to persuade members of the Armed Forces to take part in a mutiny.
The convicts are Captain Yahya (Beray) Jammeh, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju, Lieutenant Yaya Jammeh, Sergeant Baboucar Sanneh, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Private Mbemba Camara and Private Alieu Sanneh.
They were charged together with Corporal Sulayman Sanyang, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Ebrima Jallow and Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang who were all acquitted and discharged off in respect to all the charges that they were accused.They were arrested in July 2017 in relation to a WhatsApp group allegedly created to commit treason by overthrowing the Government of President Adama Barrow some time ago. The Appellants repudiated the allegation that they wanted to overthrow the Government of the Gambia by operating a social media group chat ‘WhatsApp’. The appellants in their appeal said the prosecution did not present any reliable witness to prove that the Appellants intended, participated and incited any person to overthrow the Government of The Gambia.
The appellants want the Court of Appeal to allow their appeal and set aside the judgment, findings and convictions of the court-martial. They also want the Court of Appeal to make an order to discharge and acquit them. In addition, they want the higher court to make an order that the court-martial lacks to hear the charge on treason without the consent of the Attorney-General. Finally, they want to be reinstated in the Gambia Armed Forces and for all their salaries and entitlements to be immediately paid to them.
They argued that the court-martial convicted the appellants on treason without corroboration as required by the law (section 38 of the Criminal Code). They said the court-martial erred in law by relying on the so-called transcript of the audios of the WhatsApp chat group held that it corroborated other Exhibits to prove the guilt of the appellants. The appellants argue that the said audios were never produced, shown and played in court to establish their existence, accuracy and authenticity.
In their appeal, the appellants said there was no ‘incitement to mutiny’ on the side Captain Yahya Beray Jammeh, Sergeant Baboucar Sanneh, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Private Mbemba Camara and Lance Corporal Alieu Sanneh but the court-martial went ahead and convicted them on those charges.
The convicts in their appeal said the court-martial has erred in law when it proceeded to hear and determine the charge on treason without the written consent of the Attorney-General. They argued that there was no written consent by the court-martial and therefore, the court-martial did have the jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.
They put forward that the court-martial erred in law when it failed to hold that the evidence of the Appellants (soldiers) did create reasonable doubt on the evidence of the prosecution witnesses that they did not commit the offence. They argue that the court-martial erred in law by convicting them even when the essential elements of the offences as charged had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt as required by law. The appellants argue that the court-martial did not consider the elements that the prosecution was required to prove by law on each of the offences charged. They contended that the prosecution did not lead evidence on all elements which were required to be proved by them. They appeal that the findings and conviction of the court-martial is contrary to the evidence adduced and the same cannot sufficiently establish or prove all ingredients of the offences charged. In addition, they contended that the court-martial misconceived the nature of the prosecution evidence and it did not properly evaluate the evidence.
They also appealed that the court-martial erred in law by admitting into evidence statements of the accused persons that were obtained under duress and in the absence of an independent of witness even though some of them said they were tortured. In addition, they said the statements were obtained without adherence to the established rules of taking statements (Judges Rule). The appellants appealed that there was no independent witness at the time the exhibits were obtained from the appellants adding that the appellants were never cautioned and they were not at liberty to give their statements. They also appealed that the court-martial erred in law when it held that Exhibit ‘N’, ‘O’ and ‘P’ are not computer generated documents and do not fall within the requirement of section 22 of the Evidence Act, but admissible in law. They argued that Exhibits ‘N’, ‘O’ and ‘P’ were statements from Africell, Qcell and Comium and no officer or staff from these GSM cellular companies were called as witnesses to tender it through him. They further argue that the prosecution did not lay proper foundation for the admissibility of these documents. In addition, they argue that the witness through whom these exhibits were tendered through is a security officer and part of the investigation panel; not the make of the documents.
The appellants said the court-martial heavily relied on the testimony of a tainted witness, Dino Sanneh who was arrested together with the appellants but was released in November 2017 when he agreed to testify against them. They argued that the evidence of Dino Sanneh that the court-martial placed heavy reliance on was fabricated and makeup.
Sheriff Kumba Jobe is the defence counsel for the appellants.
The 12 military officers were arraigned before a panel of five military men and a judge advocate at the Yundum Military Camp. The composition of the court included Sainabou Ceesay- Wadda as the Judge, Colonel Salifu Bojang as President and other members of the panel are Lieutenant Colonel Seedy Joof, Major Lamin K. Sanyang, Major Abdoulie Manneh and Major Basiru Sarr whilst the waiting members were Lieutenant Colonel Mai Touray, Captain A. Dacosta and Captain Awa Bah.
There trial started sometime in November 2017 and they were convicted on the 27th May 2019 by a unanimous verdict of the court-martial to serve 9 – year imprisonment term while Private Alieu Sanneh will serve 3 – year imprisonment term.