NIA Operative Testifies In Troubled Journalist Trial

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The trial of a 25-year old radio journalist who is alleged to have distributed the pictures of the president with a gun pointed at him {the president} to two protocol officers attached to the office of the president began 3 September 2015 at the high court in Banjul before Justice Mohammed Dan Azumi Balarabe, with the testimony of prosecution witness who also identified himself as an intelligence officer.

Mr Foday M Bojang a National Intelligence Agent, attached to the NIA investigative unit told the high court sitting Thursday that he recognised the accused person at their office when he was brought before him to obtain his cautionary and voluntary statements in connection with the text messages he sent to the two protocol officers attached to the office of the president.

Mr Bojang explained to the court the roles he played in connection with the case upon receiving directives from his superior boss when the accused was paraded at their office for questioning.

He told the judge: “I was assigned by my superior boss, Lamin Ceesay to obtain voluntary and cautionary statements of the accused which I did in the presence of an independence witness.  After reading the cautionary wordings to the accused, the accused wrote his own statement and was asked to read it again before he could sign it as well as the independent witness. After recording the voluntary statement, I wrote the particulars and the charges which I read to him, but he denied the allegation, saying that he did not cause any harm to anyone before he finally signed the voluntary statement and the independence witness as well.”

The director of public prosecution, SH Barkun at that point asked the witness whether he could recognise the said statements he recorded from the accused, to which he replied in the positive. The DPP then applied to tender the voluntary and cautionary statements as exhibits, but later he withdrew the tendering of the voluntary statement after the defense protested on the ground that the said statement was not an original and should not be admitted by the court.

Mr Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay is the managing director of Sinchu Alagie Village based community radio, Taranga FM. He was first arrested on 2 July, released on 13 and rearrested on 17 July, detained until he was dragged to court on 4 August, on a charge of seditious intention, for allegedly distributing pictures of President Yahya Jammeh showing a gun pointed at the president. Prosecutors alleged that Mr Ceesay used his mobile phone and distributed to one Zainab Koneh and Fatou A Drammeh. Mr Ceesay however denied any culpability and was denied bail by the lower court in Banjul. Dissatisfied with the lower court verdict, his team of lawyer filed a motion at the high court seeking for his release on bail which was also dismissed by the superior court.

The state chief prosecutor, Saleh Hadi Barkun had earlier urged the court not to grant bail to the troubled journalist as the offences he is alleged to have committed are very serious and if found guilty he may be sentenced to life imprisonment.

But counsel for the accused, lawyer Combeh Gaye Coker Thursday reminded the court again that she has a pending application for bail before the court, which is seeking for the release of the accused on bail. She submitted that she was served with affidavit in opposition this morning by the DPP, even though she had earlier served the DPP since last Monday, 31 August and was ready to move her motion. The presiding judge however considered her submission and asked for the parties to move their motions to September 7 when the case resumes.

The new bill of indictment filed by the state chief prosecutor before the high court alleged in counts two, four and seven that Mr Ceesay had intent to excite disaffection against President Yahya Jammeh, distributed a seditious phrase to wit read: “The sniper is hereby advices all citizens and non citizens to stay at their homes on Wednesday, the 22nd of July, 2015 as our struggle to kick of the dog, begins that very day and we are capable of doing anything and it might start from the celebration ground. Please be at your homes for your safety Signed by sniper 3 {sic}.”

Counts one, three, five and six are similar to the initial charge before the Magistrates’ court in Banjul, except publication of false news which also read as those of counts two, four and seven.The case before the Magistrate supposed to resume on 1 September, but he  did not turn up to court.

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