Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bail for Ex-Agric Top Brass Still Being Contested

Agric Officials shaking hands with love ones
Although the High Court in Banjul has denied bail to the embattled former top brass of the Ministry of Agriculture, the defense lawyers have renewed their campaign to have them bailed.
“One fundamental principle of common law is the presumption of innocence [of the accused] until proven guilty by a court of law,” a defense lawyer in the high profile trial, Lamin Camara, has said.
This was when the trial that started last month at Banjul, the capital, resumed yesterday – Thursday May 17 – at the High Court in Brikama, where it has been transferred.
The former agric officials’ saga came after a recent Gambia government-sanctioned inquiry into fertiliser procurement and distribution, found “the entire ministry at fault either by complacent or negligent of alleged corrupt and other malpractices.”

Amongst them three former permanent secretaries, those being indicted so far, are standing trial on a nine count charge, which include economic crime, neglect of official duty, uttering false documents and related offences.
The accused persons are: former permanent secretaries, SidiJarjue, Dr. Amadou Sowe and Bakary Trawally; Momodou Mbye Jabang, former project coordinator of Farmer Manager project; Awa Saye Touray, a supplies officer, Kekoi Kuyateh, former deputy permanent secretary and Dr Mustapha Ceesay, deputy director general of NARI, all of ministry of agriculture; and Momodou Lamin Ceesay, a local businessman.
Details of their indictment revealed that the accused persons in 2009 caused and allowed the importation of ineffective fertilizers to the detriment of the economy and welfare of the people of The Gambia.
They all pleaded not guilty.
Since their arrest on March 19, the accused persons have been under the custody of the state, except SidiJarjue, a former permanent secretary and YusuphaJawara, who are at large.
Earlier bail request was denied by the High Court in Banjul after the prosecution opposed the granting of bail as, he said, it could be detrimental to the ongoing investigations into the matter.
For the defense lawyers however, the accused persons are entitled to a bail – something they should not be denied.
“No matter the severity of the charges and no matter what evidence the state has, the constitution say the accused persons are innocent until proven guilty,” M.S Tambedou, another defense lawyer has said.
The prosecution, Simon A Abi has however opposed bail application again. “These are senior officials and they can threaten state witnesses [when bailed].”
The case resumed May 22, for ruling on whether the accused should be bailed or not.

Author: Binta A Bah

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