Thursday, February 23, 2012

Court Says Former APRC Lawmaker Used Title to Traffic Drugs

Dawda Manneh
A former parliamentarian disowned by his ruling APRC party following discovery of his involvement in the trafficking of illicit drugs was Friday sentenced to a ten-year jail term, alongside his accomplice, Demba Baldeh, an ex military personnel.
Dawda Manneh, a former National Assembly member for provincial-Nianija constituency and Mr Baldeh, a friend to him, were nabbed with over 9 kilograms of cannabis, a widely used illicit drug in a Central River region village of Sololi in 2008.
The former lawmaker and former soldier were jointly charged on two counts - possession of illicit drugs for the purpose of trafficking and conspiracy – but both denied the ownership of the drugs found in Mr Manneh’s car.
Mr Manneh had denied knowledge of the drugs in his vehicle, pointing accusing finger at Mr Baldeh. But the former soldier refused to be left holding the bag, telling the court that his lawmaker friend owns the illicit drugs.
Bringing an end to the four year long trial at the magistrates court in Banjul, the capital, the trial magistrate, Taiwo Ade Alagbe found both of them guilty – Mr Baldeh on count one and both on count two.
Alagbe was convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that Demba Baldeh, the soldier owns the drugs, but he had conspired with the former lawmaker.
“The conspiracy started at Brusubi roundabout,” the magistrate said referring to the spot in urban-Gambia where Mr Manneh admittedly picked up Mr Baldeh on a lift to provincial-Gambia.
The court believes that Manneh was using his title as a National Assembly member to transport the prohibited drug, by quickly identifying himself as parliamentarian at any security checkpoints.
The court has established further that although Mr Manneh had denied phoning Mr Baldeh for their trip, telephone print outs show that the two were constantly in touch before their departure.
Nine witnesses to the crime have testified in the trial. Ex-NAM’s lawyer Lamin LK Mboge has withdrawn from the case during the trial without advancing any reason.
In his plea of mitigation, Dawda Manneh maintained innocent. He claimed that he had served the country for 12 years without even a police case. For Demba Baldeh, his defence counsel told the court that he was a first-time offender, urging to exercise mercy.
The magistrate meanwhile sentenced Mr Baldeh as follows: 10 years and one million dalasi in default to spend another six years in jail for trafficking.
On count two both were found guilty and were sentenced 10 years in jail and one million dalasi in default to spend another 6 years in jail for conspiracy.
Since the sentences will run concurrently, and both have spent 3 years 2 months in jail during the trail, both men will spend 12 years 10 months in jail, if they could not pay their fine as the jail term starts the day of their arrest.
Author: Binta Bah

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