life sentence FOR Scattred Janneh
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, a former Information minister was yesterday convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by Justice Emmanuel Nkea of the High Court in Banjul. Janneh was found guilty on all the four counts he was charged with and was accordingly convicted and sentenced to serve life imprisonment on counts one and two, conspiracy to commit a felony and treason, all contrary to the Laws of The Gambia.
He was further convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment on counts three and four with his three co-accused persons, Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow and Michael Ucheh Thomas. The sentences are to run concurrently. This judgement brought to an end a seven-month trial, which started on July 18th 2011.
The presiding judge commenced reading his judgement, which lasted for two and half hours, with extensive reference and citation of evidences adduced in court by each of the 14 prosecution witnesses. He also made references to the history of the case which started on July 18th 2011, the email printouts brought to court by the prosecution in connection to communications relating to a ‘Coalition of change for The Gambia’, coordinated by the first accused, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh in The Gambia.
The High Court Judge also highlighted some of the exhibits brought to the court by the prosecution, which were admitted as exhibits. He said such exhibits included T-Shirts bearing inscription on the back entitled “ Coalition for Change The Gambia: End Dictatorship now”. Further commenting on the trial, Justice Nkea said, a detailed email communications exchange between the first accused Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew Jallow and a Majority leader in the Senegalese House of Parliament was found in possession of the first accused, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh through his computer.
Justice Nkea, noted that a hard drive was also found in possession of the first accused containing communication details about the Coalition for Change The Gambia, some T-Shirts were also found in Commit Company at the office of the first accused Dr Amadou Scattred, details about a radio transmitter purchased for the purpose of preparing to stage a street protest in The Gambia was also found in the email account of the first accused, Dr Janneh. To that end, the High Court judge pointed out the decision of the defence not to open defence, followed by an address of briefs filed in by both the prosecution and the defence, and the subsequent adoption of the said briefs leading to judgement.
Summing up evidences adduced in court by each of the 14 prosecution witnesses, Justice Nkea started with PW2 Sulayman Gaye, a police officer who informed the court about a certain date while walking along the Kairaba Avenue, a speeding vehicle threw a T-Shirt on him, which he later realised was having an inscription written on the back “Coalition for Change The Gambia: End to Dictatorship now”.
The witness said he later reported the matter to the police and investigations were done leading to the Albert Market where the said T-Shirts were purchased by the first accused, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh and later the fourth accused Michael Ucheh Thomas was arrested and he confessed that the first accused assigned him to print the T-Shirts. The officers later arrested the first accused and took him to his Commit Office where a hard drive and some T-Shirts were recovered from him as well as the vehicle in which the T-Shirts were thrown out on the street along the Kairaba Avenue.
According to the judge, an audio press release containing Ndey Tapha Sosseh’s voice, meant to be aired in a radio station in the Republic of Senegal was also recovered from the first accused, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh. Further commenting on the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, Justice Nkea said, investigations further revealed that, ‘Coalition for Change The Gambia’ has its overall objectives to overthrow the democratically elected government of The Gambia through street protest as happened in the Arab Spring.
Evaluation of prosecution evidence
The judge said he will evaluate as to whether the prosecution made a case against the accused persons, but before going further into that, he made reference to the decided case of Lang Tombong Tamba & Co, what does street protest mean? and what does it mean when the defence counsel said he will rely on the evidence of the prosecution instead of opening their defence and preferred to remain silent?
Justice Nkea said the right of silence is discovered in the Constitution of The Gambia. He said it is a Constitutional provision and it is the constitutional right of an accused person to remain silent, but the legal effect of that is that, the prosecution has made a case against the accused person, to remain silence will leave the evidence of the prosecution not cross-examined or unchallenged.
Justice Nkea went on to say that in the present case, the defence has not presented any evidence before the court to challenge the allegations made against the accused persons, instead the defence decided to rely on the evidence of the prosecution. “It’s a deep risk and it’s a reckless act in a criminal case to rely on such discretion. Such a discretion could be risky,” Justice Nkea pointed out before he went on to highlight an argument advanced by the director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mikailu Abdullah, who said the preparations were coordinated by the first accused, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh.
Still commenting on evidences of various prosecution witnesses, the High Court Judge referred to evidences adduced by PW7 and 13, who said the first accused Dr Scattred Janneh paid for the printing cost of the 100 T-Shirts and their evidence was supported by PW5, 10, 8 and 9 and it was revealed that the said T-Shirts were meant for the overthrow of the democratically elected Government of The Gambia through protest.
“I found out a statement read in the Coalition for Change which reads; ‘We are calling on all sectors of society to support the coalition in getting a change for the dictatorship regime. We are ultimately demanding for a change,” Justice Nkea quoted one of the documents of the coalition, which he described as a fact.
He also found a document in connection to a purchase of a radio transmitter meant to be located in Kaolack, Senegal and this evidence was found in the email account of the first accused Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, but the question remains as what the said transmitter was meant for?.
However, Justice Nkea said he later realised that the radio transmitter was meant for a broadcast in Senegal about the mission of the coalition calling for regime change in The Gambia. Justice Nkea cited the evidence of PW7 and 12, who said a meeting was held in Senegal with some of the Senegalese authorities including a majority leader in the Senegalese Parliament, Doudou Wade who gave assurance to the coalition about the support of the Senegalese Government to achieve their goal.
According to the High Court Judge, he personally meticulously read the email communications of the coalition and found out that the first accused person Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh was responsible for coordinating all the activities of the coalition in preparation for overthrow of The Gambia Government through street protest.
“What is meant by street protest? The answer to this is not far fetched. I read in one of the emails which stated ‘As we get all the equipment ready and get to The Gambia, join the coalition to overthrow the dictator of The Gambia,” Justice Nkea quoted and went further to question whether the preparation was lawful and also whether street protest was proper by way of removing a president from power.
He then queried that, if the people of The Gambia can say they elected a president who they can only remove through election or constitutional means, why then did the coalition decide otherwise? The judge further asked if the clandestine attitude of the coalition was proper or not?
“I read an email written by Mathew Jallow that everyone should support the coalition and that the coalition has the support of the US Embassy, because the first accused is a US Citizen. I wondered whether Freedom Newspaper was aware about the coalition, I hope they are aware of it,” Justice Nkea quoted an email written by Mathew Jallow.
Highlights of the various four counts charge
Justice Nkea still reading from his judgement, made an extensive highlight of each of the counts charged against the accused persons starting with count one, Conspiracy to commit felony, contrary to Section 35 (1) (g) of the Criminal Code, Revised Laws of The Gambia.
Justice Nkea commenced with citation of Balo Kanteh & Co case and later gave a definition of conspiracy, which could be proved either through circumstantial or direct evidence. He again quoted another email which read: “ Dr Scattred Janneh, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew Jallow and others intend to overthrow The Gambia Government of President Jammeh. We are calling on all to support us,” the email quotation ends.
According to the judge, Ndey Tapha Sosseh not only supported the coalition, but contributed the sum of D5,000 (Five thousand dalasis) towards the purchase of the radio transmitter. He then said he found the accused persons guilty of the offence of conspiracy to overthrow the Government of The Gambia.
Justice Nkea at that juncture gave an interpretation of conspiracy, which according to him not only conspirators have to have an active participation in the conspiracy to achieve a common goal. He said, he held that Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, Mathew Jallow and others prepared to overthrow the Government of The Gambia and the court has no option than to admit the evidence of the prosecution as it was not challenged by the defence who opted to rely on the evidence.
Corroborative evidence of the witnesses
According to Justice Nkea, the evidence of the witnesses tend to support each other and suggested that the evidence are true. The judge noted that corroborative evidence could either be written or oral and the evidences of the prosecution witnesses have been corroborated.
He added that evidences of the witnesses have corroborated each other including the exhibits tendered in court. He therefore found Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh guilty on counts one and two of the offence charged. Concerning the seditious act charged on counts three and four, the High Court judge referred to the case of Lamin Waa Juwara and said it must be proved that the person intend to carry out his intended objective.
Justice Nkea said printing of the said coalition T-Shirts constituted part of the Constitutional rights of the first accused person Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh to a freedom of expression, but such a constitutional right has a limitation. He added the term “Coalition for Change The Gambia: End to a Dictatorship” has a literal interpretation and constituted a seditious and illegal act.
The judge further pointed out that, the third accused Ebrima Jallow as a Grade 9 student, ought to have known the terms of the words written on the printed T-Shirts. He said the evidence of the prosecution witnesses shows that there was an agreement between the first accused Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh and the second accused Modou Keita, the second accused also agreed with the third accused and the third also agreed with the fourth accused and therefore, the court found the accused persons guilty of conspiracy in the printing of the 100 T-Shirts.
Plea of mitigation
The High Court judge before proceeding to deliver the terms of the sentences on various counts for each of the accused persons, asked if they have any previous history of conviction. The DPP replied in the negative. This paved the way for the defence counsel Lamin Camara to start by urging the court to temper justice mercy on all the accused persons by pointing out dispositions of all the accused persons relating to their responsibilities, family, among others meant to draw the attention of the judge to the various plights of the accused persons.
On Dr Scattred Janneh
Defence counsel Lamin Camara pointed out that Dr Janneh is now 49 years old, an intellectual, married with four children. He worked in the highest echelon of the power in the Government of The Gambia, that is the Cabinet, where he served as a minister and has served the country with diligence and was never found wanting by the law. “He has an extended family composed of both relatives and non-relatives and has a number of employees in his private business,” the defence counsel added.
The defence drew the attention of the judge to the second accused, whom he said, turned 28 years on the very day of the judgement January 17th 2012. He argued that the accused is very young and depriving him of his life will have a serious bearing on him as he is unmarried and has a sense of responsibility for his family. Defence Counsel Camara added that the second accused is responsible for the maintenance of his family, as such the court should exercise mercy on him.
Still pleading with the court to exercise mercy on the convicts, the defence counsel said, Ebrima Jallow is a 26-year-old boy, not married and he is the only surviving child of his parents. He added that he is responsible for the welfare of his ageing parents residing in the provinces and was never found wanting by the law.
Michael Ucheh Thomas
The defence counsel said though the fourth accused is not a Gambian, but he has become a Gambian by staying in the country for 10 years and got married to a Gambian lady and also engaged himself in teaching by impacting his knowledge to our Gambian children. The defence counsel further urged the court to impose a lesser sentence on the accused persons instead of literal provisions of the law.
According to him, the made provision for seditious punishable with one year or a fine of D150,000 (One hundred and fifty thousand dalasis) and treason is no longer punishable with death penalty, as such a provision was amended in the criminal laws of the country. He therefore said the available punishment is life imprisonment, but he urged the court to exercise mercy on the first accused by imposing a lesser punishment on him.
The verdict of the court
Justice Nkea commenced reading his verdict with reference to what he called frequency of treason-related offences in the country and beyond and the need to put an end to it in the interest of peace, progress and prosperity of the countries, especially in peaceful Gambia. He emphasised the need to put a stop on rampant occurrence of treason-related offences, adding that treason is an offence that always have serious effects on citizens of the country.
“I intend to impose a death penalty on the first accused Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, but there is no constitutional provision for that in the law. The only alternative punishment available is life imprisonment and therefore, the first accused is sentenced to serve life imprisonment with hard labour on counts one and two.
The rest of the three accused persons and Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh were sentenced to serve three years imprisonment on counts three and four with hard labour. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Author: Sanna Jawara & Sidiq Asemota