Prosecution and defence lawyers in the 8 counts criminal charge trial of Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Gambia’s former petroleum minister and 8 other former top government officials yesterday had bitter argument before Justice O Ottaba of the High Court in Bajul.
The legal argument was based on whether or not the court should revoke the bail previously granted to six of the nine accused persons after the prosecution amended the charges. The said accused persons are: Fafa Sanyang, Muntaga Momodou Sallah, Momodou Taal, Seedy Kanyi, Louise Moses Mendy and Cherno Marena.
The issue was raised by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) S H Barkun in the last adjourned date in which he applied for the court to revoke or revisit the bail following amendment of the charges last Monday. The defence team had highly opposed DPP’s application.
In his submission, the DPP argued that it is a practice to revisit or revoke a bail when charges are amended in a case in which the accused persons were granted bail.
Defence Lawyer H. Sisay-Sabally for the 4th accused person (Cherno Marena) submitted that the DPP’s application was a mere opinion, saying it is not supported by any law. She cited Section 37, Sub-Section 1 of the 1997 Constitution to support her argument.
She further recalled that her client was granted bail on 25th July 2016 based on the discretion of the court. She said her client’s bail application was not opposed by the state/prosecution, adding that the court in its discretion exercised it judiciously and judicially.
She reminded the court that when her client was granted bail, five conditions were imposed on him and the sureties, which she said included her client’s willingness to appear in court whenever charges were preferred against him.
She added that the prosecution did not allege that the 4th accused Cherno Marena is in breach of those conditions and that the previous charge was at USD5 Million while it now stands at USD7 million in the amended indictment. She said her client was granted bail in the sum of USD1.3 million with two Gambians sureties.
The counsel further maintained that it is not on record that her client during his period of bail breached those obligations, stressing that revoking his bail at this moment would be in total violation of the Criminal Procedure Code and the 1997 Constitution.
Lawyer Sisay-Sabally urged the court to refuse the DPP’s application and allow her client to enjoy his pre-trial liberty within the confine of the previous bail granted by the court.
Lawyer Lamin S Camara, counsel for Fafa Sanyang and Momodou OS Badjie backed lawyer Sisay-Sabally’s submission. He also maintained that the only question the court needed to ask was whether the revocation of the bail is reasonably justified.
Lawyers L Farage, C E Mene and R Y Mendy also showed their backing of their colleagues’ submissions on behalf of their clients.
Lawyers Antouman A B Gaye, L S Camara and L Farage told the court that they have filed applications for bail on behalf of their clients; namely, Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou OS Badjie and Noah Touray and the DPP was served.
The 9 former government officials are charged with offences ranging from conspiracy to commit a felony, economic crime, neglect of official duty, disobedience of statutory duty, and destroying evidence which they all denied liability of.
The case is adjourned to 31st October 2016 for ruling.
by Fatou Sowe