January 16, 2017 By Quadic Bangura:
Having been actively engaged in providing free legal advice and representation to all youths prosecuted at the Kabala Magistrate Court, following the Tuesday 16th August, 2016 conflict between the youth and the police in Kabala, Koinadugu District, Northern part of Sierra Leone, Access to Justice Law Centre (AJLC) has finally brought amusement on both the faces of the youths and residents of Kabala as the matter was acquitted and discharged on Monday the 9th of January, 2017.
It could be recalled that on Tuesday the 16th of August 2016, angry youth took to the streets to protest against the relocation of the proposed youth village from Koinadugu District to Tonkolili District. The protest resulted into the shooting dead of two protesters. Whilst others were seriously injured and admitted, and 29 were arrested and made their first appearances before Magistrate Peter Gogra of the Kabala Magistrates’ Court on Monday the 22nd of August, 2016.
Initially, most people viewed the matter as a political witch hunt.Answering the question what triggered AJLC to give free legal advice and representation to all the accused persons, Director of the organization , Lawyer Chernor MB Jalloh, stated that AJLC was a Justice and Peace and Human Rights Commission’s public Law organisation working to promote access to Justice for the Poor in Provincial Communities through research, advocacy, community legal education, legal advice and representation to women, children and youths in police stations and courts. Lawyer Jalloh went on to say that there were challenges experienced with his team of Paralegals and Barristers during the initial stage of the matter, but thankfully, he continued, they were able to overcome them.
The District Youth Chairman, Mohamed Jimmy Marah, is now ecstatic for having been acquitted and discharged.
He said that during their detention in the police cells on Thursday the 18th of August, 2016, a team of Paralegals and Barristers headed by Lawyer Lahai Kamara, identified themselves as staff of AJLC, and thereafter took statements from them, but that they never knew they would be represented in Court because of the seriousness of the matter.
He added by saying that they became amazed when they saw AJLC’s team of Barristers on the first day of arraignment before Magistrate Peter Gogra of the Kabala Magistrate Court.
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He confirmed to this press that AJLC did not take anything as a payment or consideration from either of them or their family members and ended by saying that 29 0f them were arrested and charged to court and that due to the intervention of AJLC in court, 15 were discharged on their first appearance, whilst 14 of them were left in the hands of AJLC until they were acquitted and discharged on the Monday the 9th of January, 2017.
On her part, the Miss Koinadugu 2016, who represented her District in the Miss Sierra Leone Beauty Pageant 2016, Agnes Saio Mansaray, said that she has been monitoring the proceedings and activities of AJLC in this case, and that with profound gratitude, she admired and thanked Lawyer Jalloh, the Director of AJLC for having used his own money and resources in the matter for the past five months.
She went on to say that her experience in the case has confirmed that authentic social peace and respect for Human Rights can only be found in a free and fair justice system and continued that the youths of Kabala should be fully ready to respect the Rule of Law and be mindful of the fact that the future of their Koinadugu District requires a distinctive youthful life with objectivism.