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At Court Martial!

Absence of prosecution witnesses forces adjournment

By Alusine Sesay

The trial of 14 alleged mutineers, which was supposed to have commenced yesterday at the Court Martial centre, military headquarters, Cockerill, again faced a stalemate and had to be adjourned to 7 May because prosecution witnesses failed to turn up for some unexplained reasons.

Principal State Prosecutor Gerald Soyie rendered his profound apology to the Bench, noting that the witnesses reside in Makeni and  had been present in court during the past hearing, but could not tell as to why they were absent in court yesterday.

He applied for the matter to be adjourned to Wednesday, when he assured the witnesses would be present.

The defence, who had been absent on three consecutive hearings, did not raise any abjection to the prosecution’s application for an adjourned date, thus Judge Advocate Otto During ruled that the matter be adjourned as per the prosecution’s request.

The atmosphere and mood in the court room was expectant as the accused persons, their families and defence team expected testimonies from two prosecution witnesses, as promised by the prosecution last week. The prosecution though could only offer their apology to the Judge Advocate for the absence of the witnesses.

The trial has been bogged down by adjournments since it belatedly started few weeks ago after the accused were detained without trial for almost nine months. First, the defence team boycotted proceedings on the grounds of non-payment of legal fees by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and then the unexplained absence of prosecution witnesses yesterday.

Meanwhile, observers have expressed doubt as to whether the trial will be conducted within the 60 days hearing duration stipulated by the MoD.