Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - The High Court here Monday granted bail to eight members of the troubled local pressure group- “3 years Jotna movement” after the state raised no objection for bail following a new amended charge filed by state prosecutors.
Under the banner of a self-styled protest group “Three Years Jotna”, meaning “the three years has reached”, January 26 held demonstrations in Banjul pressing for President Adama Barrow to resign.
The suspects are Abdou Njie, Ebrima Kitim Jarju, Sheriffo Sonko, Hagi Suwaneh, Fanta Mballow, Karim Touray, Yankuba Darboe, and Muctarr Ceesay.
According to the bill of indictment filed by the prosecutors, the suspects on January 26 at Sting Corner jointly and unlawfully took part in an unlawful assembly.
Police prosecutors further alleged that the suspects on the same day and place disregarded an order by Deputy Superintendent of Police Alagie Jallow in the name of the president to disperse peacefully after its expiration and thereby committed an offence.
The bill of indictment further revealed that the suspects riotously assembled and unlawfully destroyed Gambia Technical Training Institute students’ waiting shed by setting it ablaze.
This was the second time in less than two months that the group organised an action in its drive to bring down the Barrow government which came to power through a marriage of convenience by way of a grand coalition of opposition parties formed in 2016.
At the High Court in Banjul, the trial judge gave six conditions which included the suspects' ability to keep the peace, among others, before finally granting them bail.
It was a moment of joy for their loved ones, family members and the suspects who walked freely from the premises of the court after they had a brief taste of freedom on bail.
The bail came following a heated debate between the defence team and a team of state lawyers as to whether the suspects should be granted bail or not when the case initially resumed before Justice Amina Saho-Ceesay a fortnight ago.
One of the defence lawyers earlier argued that the suspects should be granted bail as all the offences they were charged with were all bailable offences while drawing the attention of the court to the cardinal principle of criminal justice system.
When the case resumed Monday for the state to respond to the bail application filed by the defence team, the lead state counsel, K Taal, informed the court about the new amended charge filed before the court.
As a result of this, the state counsel submitted that they were not opposing bail for the suspects and urged the court to use its discretionary powers to grant bail.
Delivering her ruling after going through the records of the case filed for almost an hour, the trial judge, Justice Amina Saho-Ceesay cited various sections of the Constitution, Criminal Procedure Code as well as the fundamental rights of the suspects, observed that bail should not be withheld as a form of punishment.
“As judges, we should not dance to the music played by politicians; rather, we should be impartial, none bias is the trade of judges,” Justice Saho-Ceesay observed, citing similar cases which included the case of Buhari and the Nigerian electoral body to back her verdict.
The trial judge at that point granted bail to each of the suspects in the sum of D200,000 with two Gambian sureties.
She further ordered the suspects to surrender all their documents, including travelling documents, to the registrar of the court.
The matter was consequently adjourned to 25 March for plea taking after the state requested for 30 days adjournment which was accepted by the defence team.
-0- PANA MSS/RA 24Feb2020