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As Court Martial resumes, but Principal Prosecutor still absent

February 23, 2015 By Alusine Sesay

Judge Advocate in the ongoing court martial trial of 13 alleged military mutineers, Mr. Otto During, yesterday overruled the prosecution’s application for another adjournment, noting that in the interest of fair play and progress, Major Vincent Sowa should step in the shoes of Principal State Prosecutor Gerard Soyei, who was still absent in court.

The court martial trial in which the defence is presenting its case was stalled when Principal State Prosecutor Soyei fell ill and could not be present in court for four consecutive sittings. On the previous adjourned date, Judge Advocate During had indicated he would not allow another adjournment on the grounds of the enforced absence of Soyei due to illness.

At the trial yesterday, lead Defence Counsel Julius N. Cuffie vehemently opposed to the prosecution’s application for another adjournment, citing section 94, Act No. 32 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) of 1955, and applied that the accused persons be granted bail and the case be discharged for want of prosecution.

“My Lord, this application is made in the interest of progress and fair play. Justice is a two-edged sword and what applies to the goose must apply to the gander,” Cuffie submitted.

He argued that the accused persons have been incarcerated at the Pademba Road Male Correctional Centre for nearly eighteen months and that the defence “relies on the legal maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. We further rely on the 1991 Constitution Act No. 6, section 23(1) under the rubric provision to secure protection of the law. The matter is being delayed by the prosecution and we should not continue with adjournment. We cannot interfere with the prosecution witnesses since they have made their case.”

The Judge Advocate, however, overruled the defence’s application for the case to be discharged and or the accused persons to be put on bail, but ruled that the matter should proceed even in the absence of the Principal Prosecutor.

Led in evidence, the 5th accused, who is also the 10th defence witness (DW10), Corporal Momoh Conteh, told the court that he had been deployed at the Maritime Naval Wing at Government Wharf in Freetown since 2002 after he passed out in 2001 at the Armed Forces Training Centre, Benguema Barracks.

He told the court that save for the 2nd accused, Warrant Officer Class II Frederick Wallace-Johnson, he only came to know the other accused persons at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre.

Corporal Conteh continued that he would report for duty at 8:30am and go off duty at 3:30pm, and that while at Government Wharf he did act as the boss’s mate, who always tied the naval patrol [vessel] to the jetty and performed ship husbandry, among other duties.

He said that he worked for 7 days a week and would report for duty on Sundays for essential services.

The witness said he had neither in his entire life travelled to Makeni nor requested welfare pass, being absent for duty without official leave or proceeded on leave throughout the month of August 2013.

He categorically denied being party to a meeting in Makeni that prosecutors say the alleged mutineers held to plot against military commanders and to overthrow the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

While being cross-examined by Major Vincent Sowa, the accused conceded that he had squad mates during training at Benguema, but noted that none of his co-accused persons was part of his squad. He added that he is neither a member of squad 99 nor was he part of a welfare organization at the Government Wharf Maritime Naval Wing that maintained link with the said squad 99 in Makeni.

Meanwhile, Navy Lieutenant Fara Kargbo, who identified himself as the direct commander to the 5th accused, corroborated all his alibis and expressed dismay over the former’s arrest for mutiny.

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