Accused says: ‘I was charged to court because I refused to serve as false witness’
March 24, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
Eighth accused Private Alpha Mansaray in the ongoing court martial trial of 13 alleged mutinous soldiers yesterday told the court that he was arrested and charged to court because he had refused to bear false testimony against the 1st accused, Private Momoh Kargbo.
The accused, who also served as the 26th defence witness, told the court that on 15 August, 2013, he had dressed up to inspect guard details and ascertain his place of deployment for guard duty at night when one Lieutenant Robin approached him and asked as to whether he knew anything about the 1st accused who was already in detention at the guardroom.
“He asked me to serve as false witness against Private Momoh Kargbo who was alleged to have been engaging in secret meetings. I was flabbergasted and vehemently refused and shouted ‘lailahailala Mohamadu Rasulula’ (meaning: there is only one God and Mohamed is his messenger),” he told the court. “He then told me to go closer to him and there he told me that Momoh Kargbo had been saying bad things about me and that I should bear false testimony against him in court.”
The witness said he was at home with his family at Teko Barracks, Makeni, when a fire alarm was raised on 16 August, 2013.
“Immediately I heard the fire alarm I told my wife that I am going to the office. I went to the office and furthered the journey to the 4th Battalion headquarters. We then went to the brigade headquarters where we were addressed by Lieutenant Colonel Bockarie, who told us that he had a rumour that some soldiers were holding secret meetings,” Private Mansaray said.
He added that he was at the rare when he was again approached by Lieutenant Robin who called on one Corporal Cobra.
“He informed the Corporal that I had refused to do what he wanted me to do. I responded that I cannot be forced to be false witness for something that I know nothing about. He then ordered the Corporal to lock me up since I had refused to do what he had wanted,” he narrated.
The witness further told the court that he was locked up at the guardroom where he spent the night before he was removed the following day, after some military police conducted a search at his residence but found nothing of interest.
He said he was transferred to the custodian centre at Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown before he was transferred to the Pademba Road Male Correctional Centre, where he was interrogated by investigators.
According to him, he had a rift with the 1st accused and that they were not on speaking terms before they were both charged to court for the alleged mutiny. The rift, he said, started when the 1st accused cut some potato vines that belonged to one of his neighbours (8th accused) in 2011.
“I questioned him as to whether he obtained permission from the owner of the garden. He replied me that the owner was his squad mate. No sooner he left the garden than the owner came and accused me of the deed. I told him that it was done by Momoh Kargbo. Myself together with the owner went to the Welfare Officer who summoned Momoh and charged him for stealing,” he explained. “Since then we were not on speaking terms on to the time we were charged to court.”
The 8th accused further told the court that he was not surprised when one Memunatu Kamara, the 12th prosecution witness, testified against him in court because they had a rift before he was charged to court.
He said he had entered into a charcoal transaction with the 12th prosecution witness, which ended in a rift between them, adding that the witness had earlier threatened him that she would do all in her power to ensure he was dismissed from the army.
Private Mansaray also told the court that he was on annual leave throughout the month of July 2013, and that he had spent his leave with his wife at Mattru Jong in the Bonthe District.
The 8th accused said he was assigned to perform guard duty from 1 to 14 August, 2013 at the main gate of Teko Barracks, residence of the Commanding Officer and at the private house of the Defence Minister, Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh, in Makeni, adding that not at once did he abandon his guard post without official permission.
Mansaray told the court he was oblivious of a command group conference held in Makeni in March 2013 because he was at Bumbuna at the time, and that he was not a party to any secret meeting to overthrow the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma.
He and his co-accused persons have denied all the charges levied against them by the prosecution.
They were charged with mutiny, failure to suppress a mutiny, and conspiracy to mutiny, among others, after their arrest in August 2013.
They have since been held in detention after first spending months without trial.