Human Rights, Justice

Coup Trial: Alleged Contents Of Mobile Phone Steal Show In Court

The state and defence in the trial of Gambia soldiers alleged to have been conspiring to topple President Adama Barrow and his administration have sparred over a phone that allegedly contained audio evidence.

The argument occurred Tuesday during the continuation of testimony by Police Superintendent Jally M.I. Senghore.

Testifying for the fourth day, Police Superintendent Jally M.I. Senghore told the court that one phone belonged to the first accused, one to the second accused, one to the third person and two to the fourth accused Omar Njie.

He also affirmed to the court that he could identify the phone of the 1st accused, saying: “It is labeled and his name is on it.”

The witness eventually identified the phone before the court.

“My lord, we are objecting to the admission of all the phones, whether they are here or not,” Counsel L.S. Camara objected when State Counsel A.M. Yusuf applied to tender the mobile phones into evidence.

“My lord, according to the list we were served, what is written there is a phone – singular. Also the labels of the phones were not indicated, whether it is Samsung, Nokia [or so],” he argued.

Yusuf urged the court to proceed, saying he would later serve them with the list of the mobile phones if that is the problem.

“No objection My Lord,” L.S. Camara finally said.

Proceedings, Counsel Yusuf asked the witness: “Can you tell me what transpired between you and Karamo Jatta during the course of investigation?”

Mr Senghore responded: “Karamo was invited with three other witnesses. He showed us a phone, which contains audio conversation with the first accused, photos of goods and documents containing Operational plan and deployment of commandoes.”

He said that during the procession, he obtained hardcopies of the documents, while the audio conversations between him (Karamo Jatta) and the 1st accused (Sana Fadera) “were transferred into a flash drive from the phone of Karamo”.

“After that, Karamo wrote his own witness statement,” he said further, adding: “You also made mention of hardcopies of the documents of operational plans and deployment of commandoes?”

Answering in the positive, he said he could identify the documents. “Yes, it is a three-page document containing an operational plan and the deployment of commandoes.”

With no objection from the defence, the state was granted application to tender the said document in evidence as exhibit P11.

First arraigned in early January, the accused persons in the historic trial are Lance Corporal Sanna Fadera, Sergeant Gibril Darboe, Corporal Ebrima Sannoh and Corporal Omar Njie, soldiers of the Gambian army, and Gambian police Sub-Inspector Fabakary Jawara.

The men face treason and concealment of treason among other charges, and could be spending the rest of their lives behind bars if found guilty by presiding Judge, Justice Basirou V.P. Mahoney.

“After receiving the mobile phone and exhibit P11 (operation plan and deployment of commandoes), did you do anything with the mobile phone retrieved from Karamo Jatta?” Counsel asked.

“Yes, concerning the audio conversation, I examined the phone thoroughly, and the phone was handed over to the police prosecution together with file,” the witness responded.

Quizzed as to whether he could recognise the phone, the witness said he could identify it. He added that he could not remember the mark (label) of the phone but it was an android.

Counsel Yusuf removed a phone but Counsel Camara objected and told the court that the witness did not sufficiently describe the phone before the phone was exposed to the court.

“My lord, we object to it. This witness said and I quote verbatim that the phone is an android phone with some tag and it has some notes on the side of the phone,” he said.

“For this phone to be tendered before the court, this phone must be properly identified as the phone belonging to Karamo Jatta. The reception for the foundation of this exhibit has not been laid.

“On this circumstance we enjoin the court that this phone be rejected,” he said.

The defence counsel added: “But most importantly before I conclude. I refer my lord to the indictment of 23rd January 2023. In the list of exhibits, you have summary of witness statements… but no phone was listed.

“Then subsequently, the defence was served with two additional lists of exhibits, one is the 13th and the other 15th of March, but no phones were listed. Subsequently, we respectfully urge your lordship to reject these phones,” Defence Counsel L. S Camara submitted.

Counsel Yusuf countered saying it was listed in the additional list of exhibits that was filed on the 18th of March.

“The witness has sufficiently described the mobile phone which, according to his evidence, belongs to one Karamo Jatta. My lord, the witness gave a technical feature of the phone, which is android, and he also gave a physical feature of the phone by saying it has a crack. Going by their argument, that is not sufficient because [for instance] there could be one thousand and one type of Nokia.

“My lord it is in evidence that the mobile phone is the phone of one Karamo Jatta, and the witness, as I said earlier, has his understanding of how he can identify the phone based on his own understanding. Therefore, it is our submission that, my lord, individual understanding and appreciation of facts differ.

“Finally, we submit that the admission of the mobile phone into evidence will in no way be prejudicial in the course of justice,” Counsel Yusuf held.

The matter was adjourned till Thursday 11 a.m. for ruling over the argument of the parties and continuation of trial.

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