…13 soldiers not guilty
August 6, 2015 By Alusine Sesay & Gabriel Benjamin
They were arrested in August 2013, incarcerated at the Pademba Road Male Correctional Centre for over 8 months without being charged to court.
They were subsequently charged with 8 counts, ranging from conspiracy to commit mutiny, mutiny and failure to suppress mutiny.
However, Yesterday (5 August), 13 of the alleged mutineers finally breathed an air of freedom after they were cleared on all the charges.
Addressing the court yesterday, Judge Advocate Otto During noted that in a criminal matter of such magnitude, the prosecution must prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt.
“This is fundamental principle in the practice of law,” he said.
On count one, which is conspiracy to commit mutiny, he said: “Conspiracy is difficult to prove because it is done secretly. It also needs a corroborative evidence for it to be proven. The conspirators should have specific intention and the law requires that they should execute the act.”
He noted that that all the information about a secret meeting at the Saint Andrews Primary School at Teko Barracks was mere rumour.
Judge Advocate During continued that all the accused persons, with the exception of the 14th raised alibis and that investigators failed to cross check them, hence they stand.
He said there was corroborative evidence that there was no breakage at the arms store in Teko Barracks in Makeni.
On count 2, which is mutiny, the judge advocate said there was no evidence in court that all the accused persons engaged in any activities that amounted to mutiny.
He said mutiny involves two or more persons subjected to law, engage in some violent activities and that it must be done openly.
He emphasised there was no evidence of mutiny in court and that there was no violent activities in which the accused, either with or without the use arms, subdued their commanders and put them under arrest.
He noted that counts 3 to 6, which relates to failure to suppress mutiny, was not duplicitous and that they require knowledge of the accused persons to do so.
He dismissed counts 7 and 8 which is incitement to mutiny, noting that they are bad in law as one cannot incite somebody to commit mutiny alone.
Reading the verdict in court, President of the Court Martial Board, Lieutenant Colonel Bobley Jusu cleared the 13 accused persons on all the charges, while the Judge Advocate acquitted and discharged them.
Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Defense, Colonel I.M. Koroma, remarked that “It was a fair judgment. The verdict is just and in place. We have seen justice prevail. At last the 13 accused persons have been set free. Justice has finally been done.”
Colonel Koroma added that: “The prosecution failed to connect the accused persons to the particulars of offence, for which they were being charged. They did not go beyond the police evidence. That is the nexus and I am not disappointed.”
Defense counsel for the 14th accused person, Robert B. Kowa noted that the victory at the court martial meant a lot to him and to his career.
“I am the first lawyer in the history of this country to defend mutineers who at last have been acquitted and discharged by a sitting military court martial,” he said.
State Prosecutor, Major Vincent Sowa noted that, “This is an historical trial. Today, we have seen the rule of law supersedes the rule by the law and wrong advice to the chain of command. I am not upset over the judgment. This shows that democracy is at work in Sierra Leone.”
However, one of the accused persons, Captain Prince Sesay said triumphantly that, “This is an excellent moment in my life. I give all the glory to God for fulfilling his word in my life. To him be all the praise. Thank God that I am free man at last!”
His wife, Melrose Sesay, expressed similar sentiments. “The grace of God has done this for us. To God be all the glory. I am so full of joy,” she said. “I have no grievances against all those who lied against my husband. I hand them over to God and each one will reap whatsoever he sows.”
Meanwhile, Executive Director of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy last night congratulated the court for administering justice to the 14 military personnel [one of the soldiers was acquitted and discharged after the preliminary investigation].
CARL championed the campaign to urge the government to release the men or bring them to court, after they were initially held for eight months without trial and incommunicado.
Tommy told Cord Times that: “It is victory for justice, and should serve as a critical step forward in bringing closure to the sad chapter in the lives of those men. We will continue to condemn and seek compensation for the human rights violations that they suffered in the course of the process, particularly for illegally detaining them for eight months without arraigning them.”
He added though, “They are now free men. That’s the beauty of justice, and I hope they can seamlessly reunite with their wives, children and parents.”