Prosecution applies for matter to continue
By Alusine Sesay
Principal State Prosecutor, Gerald Soyie, yesterday applied for the court martial trial of fourteen alleged mutinous soldiers to continue uninterrupted despite the absence of defense counsels, noting that “Justice is a double edged sword in that when the prosecution appears to waste time, the defense usually makes explosive application to discharge the accused person.”
He added that: “The defense are absent and we the prosecution can invoke our right to proceed in their absence because it would not be fair for the defense to apply for discharge in prescribed circumstances and restrain the prosecution from proceeding the matter.”
He further based his argument on in the interest of justice which he said is meant not only for the defense but the prosecution as well, and that the defense did not forward any written excuse or reason for their absence, thus urging the Judge Advocate to allow evidence to be led and witnesses cross-examined subsequently.
However, the Judge Advocate, Otto During, ruled that in as much as the points raised by the prosecution are valid, he would not allow the proceeding to continue in the absence of the defense, noting that the matter is very serious.
He ordered that the notice of adjournment be communicated to all the members of the defense team, and adjourned the matter to Wednesday 30 April for further hearing.
Meanwhile, the court martial trial of 14 alleged mutineers may face serious setbacks with the likelihood of exceeding the sixty days sitting it was due to last for, according to a press rlease from the Public Relations and Media Department of the Ministry of Defense, MOD.
Having concluded the pre-trial hearing, which was characterised by objections and counter-objections, followed by the swearing in of the court martial board, reading of charges to the accused persons and opening speech by the prosecution, the defense has boycotted the hearing on two consecutive times, thereby derailing speedy proceedings.
The proper trial was due to have commenced yesterday with the prosecution prepared to conduct the examination-in-chief of two witnesses, but the matter had to be adjourned to Wednesday 30 April because of the absence of the entire defense team, led by Julius Nye Cuffie, Esq.
The absence of defence lawyers, according to reliable MOD sources, was not unconnected to a delay in the disbursement of part payment of legal fees due the team.