F Manneh        CJ Savage!

By Our Chief National Correspondent Landing Badjie, Banjul.

Gambians who left their homes as early as 7 0clock local time, Thursday to witness the trial of the prominent US based Gambian journalist, cum political activist Fatou Jaw Manneh were disappointed, as the presiding magistrate Buba Jawo entertains a request made by the state to bar local journalists and members of the public from witnessing Thursday’s proceedings. Only two journalists, court staff and family members of Ms.Manneh were allowed to witness the trial, which saw the testimony of an NIA agent who was detailed to arrest Fatou Jaw Manneh at the airport upon her arrival. Our Chief National Correspondent Landing Badjie has been following developments and he now files this report. Please read on….

Hearing yesterday began in the trial of Ms. Fatou Jaw Manneh over sedition and other related charges.
Dressed in green African dress, Ms. Manneh,accompanied by relatives, friends and those keenly following the case, on Thursday appeared before a magistrates’ court in the Serekunda suburb of Kanifing as her case entered full trial.
Though, the prosecution witness was able to render his evidence, it took sometime before this was done when the State counsel made an application for his witness to testify in camera.He pointed out that considering the nature of the job of his witness, he  would  prefer  the testimony  be  given  in  camera, citing  a  provision  in the 1997 Constitution to back up his stance.
In reply however, the defence counsel,Lamin Jobarteh, counter-argued that the court should not entertain the state counsel’s application. He pointed out that the case could only be heard in camera in the event the evidence of the witness may jeopardize the national security, erode the moral fibre of the society or an individual.
‘I would therefore, your worship, like this honourable court to rule out my learned friend’s application. That particular proviso of the constitution he is trying to rely on can only come into play when the moral fibre of a society or an individual and state security would be jeopardized when testimonies are given. It can also be applicable in juvenile courts or when evidence to be rendered would be of highly intelligence material,’ counsel Jobarteh eloquently argued.
Responding to the defense counsel, the state prosecutor, Emmanuel Fagbenle who doubles as the director of public prosecution, said:’My learned colleague would understand and appreciate my concerns not only for the interest of justice but also for sensitivity of  the job of my witness. I would therefore want your worship to give us two minutes to confer among ourselves.’
They were given the liberty to do this and when they emerged, it was announced that only the family members of Ms. Manneh, two journalists and court staff could stay in the court to witness the proceedings.
In his testimony before a sparsely-filled and hushed courtroom, the first prosecution witness cast his mind back to the day when Madam Manneh was arrested by state agents on arrival at Banjul International Airport from the United States. The witness, whose identity was concealed due to security reasons, informed the court that he later joined the men who arrested Manneh on the way to Banjul.
” When I embarked the vehicle, the accused gave me a smile thereupon I knew all was not right. On our arrival at the NIA Headquarters in Banjul, the witness was taken to the office of OC Hydara where she was subjected to interrogation. I was later handed a copy of a posting that the accused was said to have posted on the internet,” the witness informed the court.
At that juncture, DPP Fagbenle applied to tender the internet posting and Ms. Manneh’s statements as  pieces of evidence but this was objected to by defense counsel Jobarteh who later made an application for a trial within a trial to determine the voluntariness of  his client’s statement. This application was though ruled out by magistrate Jawo who explained that the statement could not be only admitted as a  piece of evidence when it was obtained  under duress or torture. He therefore admitted the statement and the internet cutting as pieces of evidence and marked them as exhibits.
The case was then adjourned for continuation.

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Posted on Friday, April 13, 2007 (Archive on Tuesday, May 29, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI

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