Thursday, May 24, 2012

Former anti-Drug Agents’ Sentence ‘a Bit Harsh’

Convicts being escorted to the waiting truck

It has been two years of a traumatic courtroom experience for the families of the embattled former top brass of the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA).
In the face of the widespread economic hardship, they might have been feeling the pinch of the high cost of fares in traveling to and from Banjul, as their loved ones in the stifling legal tussle were said to be the breadwinners.
Yet, these familiar sea of people, amongst them, their wives, children, mothers, fathers, friends, and other close relatives and dependants, were as regular at the High Court in Banjul as the tried.

They witnessed in agony each time their loved ones arrive from the State Central Prisons, with their hands and legs shackled, as if emerging through the Door of No Return waiting to be shipped away and sold into slavery.
The flames of that charged atmosphere, was fanned when this high profile courtroom saga, was brought to an end on Monday May 14.
“How am I going to take care of the children?” Mariama Jarju, the first of the two wives of Ibrahim Bun Sanneh cried-out, audibly enough to attract the attention of the parked courtroom.
This was shortly after her husband and accomplices, including his deputy were declared guilty on multiple criminal offenses by the trial judge.
The judge was in no mood to answer her question, nor the masked security officers, who seemed eager to whisk her husband away to the prison, whose conditions are described by human rights activists as hostile.
The respond the poor woman got, was from the equally somber-looking people, who gathered around her, consoling her as tears rained from her eyes, and gave her a word of assurance that she can count on Allah.
Ibrahim Bun Sanneh, 50s, is a pioneer of what is today known as National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA), formerly Drug Squad. He is the Agency’s first executive director.
His deputy Karamo Bojang, director of operations Ousman Sanneh and officer commanding accounts Seedy Bojang, all have served the Agency for several years.
However, shock waves were sent across the country and beyond when these men who were at the helm of affairs at the Agency mandated to watch against illicit drug trade, were themselves accused of it.
This was in April 2010 and they have since then received their marching orders from President Yahya Jammeh, who seemed to have a tough task of cleaning The Gambia’s name as among the Mexicos of West Africa.
Together with Mary Sanneh, a woman, they were tried at the Special Criminal Division of the High Court in Banjul on a multiple count charge.
Which include: economic crime, illegal possession of fire arms, corruption, abuse of office, forgery, stealing and selling of illicit drugs and related offenses.
They however denied the allegations and held onto that position even after the testimonies - some of them incriminating - of 17 witnesses to the crime.
But in the end the presiding judge Emmanuel Nkea, was doubtless that Bun Sanneh and his accomplices are as guilty as charged on all the allegations, except three.
“Ousman Jatta, pw1 [prosecution witness number one] is a drug peddler and has confessed that he was given drugs [by the convicts] to sell,” Justice Nkea has said.
Before handing down the sentence, as per the procedure, the judge allowed the convicts to plead with the court to tamper justice with mercy.
In doing so, Lawyer Kebba Sanyang, who represented three of the five convicts, brought the court’s attention to what he calls, the selfless services his clients have rendered to the government and the people of The Gambia.
“They have been in custody since 2010 and they have families who depend on them,” Sanyang added, referring to Bun and co.
He urged the court to impose a fine for all the offenses on which his clients were found guilty, rather than impose a term of imprisonment.
Similar plea was done by Lawyer Lamin Mboge on behalf of his client and Mary Sanneh, whose legal representative, Pap CheyassinSecka, has passed away, recently. She said she has four children who are all young, and need her motherly care.
But, even if the court heard the pleas for imposition of a fine, only Marie Sanneh’s was recognised. She was fined 100, 000.00 but failure to pay will land her in jail for a five year duration.
The former anti-drug agents were each slapped with an 8-year prison term. The sentenced started from the day of their arrest, meaning they will now spend six years in prison.
However, this is if the defense lawyers decided not to appeal the decision of the court at a higher court.
“I don’t know whether or not I will appeal as I need to go over the judgment and talk to my client,” defense lawyer, Lamin Mboge told the Daily News.
He described the sentence as a bit harsh.

Author: Binta A Bah.

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