Full trial hearing begins at court martial
By Alusine Sesay
The full trial of 14 alleged mutinous soldiers commenced yesterday after several enforced adjournments, with the testimony of first prosecution witness, RSLAF 18164467 Warrant Officer Class II (WO2), Abu Bakarr Dumbuya, attached to the 4th Battalion at Teko Barracks in Makeni.
Speaking through an interpreter (Captain S.E. Bogra), WO II Abu Bakarr Dumbuya told the court he knew all the accused persons, save the second accused. He recalled that on 10 August, 2013, a group of military police personnel and persons in civilian attire went to the battalion Ordering Room with a document bearing the names of three military personnel: Privates Jalloh, Fabai and Tholley, whom they declared wanted.
He said he was ordered by one Major Kallon to go in search of the three personnel. “I did as ordered and went to the quarters and first saw Private Jalloh and handed him over to Major Kallon. I again returned to the quarters in search of the remaining two and fortunately saw Private Fabai whom I handed over to one Corporal Abu at about 6pm and instructed him (Abu) to surrender Fabai to Major Kallon, while I went in search of Tholley. I found out that Private Tholley was not within the barracks but was on an annual leave, possibly in his village.”
He said that the two accused were not with Major Kallon when he subsequently returned to update the latter.
“I then went in search of Corporal Abu, saw him and asked him the whereabouts of Private Fabai,” he narrated, adding that the Corporal told him that Fabai had run away, and that the Corporal was detained until the following morning.
“He (Corporal Abu) slept in the guard room onto the following morning when I informed the military police in charge, who supported me that the Corporal should be locked up for his negligence.”
He further testified that they conducted a search for Fabai and that he was later informed by one Lieutenant Robin, an Intelligence Officer at the battalion that Fabai had been arrested and detained.
While being cross-examined by defence counsel Thomas Beah, the witness was asked as to whether he could recall he made a statement at the Regional Crime Office at Mena Police Station in Makeni on 29 August, 2013, to which he replied in the affirmative, albeit he could not recall the exact date.
The cross-examination had to be cut short though after the defence made an application to the Judge Advocate for the witness to be shown his statement at the Mena Police Station, which was vehemently objected by the prosecution on the grounds that they (defence) had failed to lay a better foundation for such application.
Meanwhile, prior to the witness testifying in court, the defence counsel applied for the matter to be discharged on the grounds that the accused were arbitrarily being detained, beyond the period prescribed by the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, as they were not brought to court within a reasonable period of time.
But the prosecution, led by Principal State Prosecutor Gerald Soyei, again opposed the application on the grounds that there was reference for trial within a reasonable period of time.
The 14 accused persons and 4 who were few weeks ago released for want of evidence were detained without trial for more than nine months following their arrest last year, with defence officials saying lack of money was preventing the start of the court martial.
However, Judge Advocate Otto During overruled the defence application, noting that they should have obtained a writ of habeas corpus before the trial commenced, adding “I don’t think the court has the jurisdiction or locus standi to discharge the accused persons. Therefore, I will not allow the defence application.”
The trial was adjourned to Friday, 9 May, 2014.