ALERT Gambia: Journalist to be re-tried

The trial of Lamin Fatty, a reporter with the banned Banjul-based  bi-weekly “The Independent, for publishing false information, is  to start anew, following the appointment of the trial magistrate, Kebba Sanyang, as the Gambia?s Attorney General and Secretary of State  for Justice.

Sanyang’s appointment was announced on November 13, 2006. At today’s hearing the court clerk had to select December 4, a new date by which a magistrate is expected to be appointed.
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) sources say Fatty’s lawyer Lamin Camara has expressed worry over this decision. He has consistently argued that the case has dragged on for too long. During
the last hearing, he lamented the delay in the case by the
prosecution. He therefore applied for it to be struck out and his client discharged. The magistrate overruled the application on the grounds that the prosecution still needed to be given time.

The case has been adjourned five times. Sometimes, the magistrate adjourned the trial to attend private social events of friends.

The case started in June with two prosecution witnesses testifying so far. It was last adjourned on November 7, due to the absence of the police prosecutor, Momodou Mballow.

Fatty is charged under section 181 of the Criminal Code, which in its amended form makes the publication of “false information” a criminal and punishable offence. He faces a minimum of six months in jail without the option of a fine if convicted.

The 24 March edition of “The Independent” erroneously reported Samba Bah, a former minister of interior and former head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), as among those arrested in the aftermath of an alleged coup. The newspaper subsequently published Bah’s notice of
correction and also apologized to him.

The police soon raided the offices of “The Independent” and arrested all staff members, including Madi Ceesay and Musa Saidykhan, general manager and editor respectively. They have since been released without charge.

Fatty was arrested by the Gambian police on 10 April and illegally detained for 63 days.
Prof. Kwame Karikari
Executive Director
Tel: 233 21 242470
Fax: 233 21 221084

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