At Court Martial:


Accused complains severe ailment, weeps in court

May 5, 2015 By Alusine Sesay

The 3rd accused in the ongoing court martial trial of 13 alleged military mutineers yesterday wept bitterly in court as he complained that, “I did not do anything for being in prison. I am sick and going through pains and nobody cares for me. I wouldn’t mind I die now because I am suffering a lot with this ailment”.

Private Coker Suma told the court martial that he had been diagnosed of hepatitis and had been getting serious attacks in prison, adding that the medication he was given could not help him recover.

“I came into the military very healthy and government should foot my medical bill,” he said, as he urged military authorities to take him to the 34 Military Hospital at Wilberforce, where he would be assured of accessing proper medication.

A senior prison officer who refused to disclose his name noted that the prison hospital could not provide the appropriate medication for the accused and that medics at the hospital had provided the accused with a prescription for the notice of the army.

Meanwhile, the trial did not proceed yesterday due to the absence of one of the Court Martial Board Members, Captain Fonti Kanu, who according to the Judge Advocate, was undergoing surgery.

State prosecutor Major Vincent Sowa was supposed to have cross-examined the 8th accused, Private Alpha Mansaray, but applied for a week adjournment, citing Rule 88(2) and 106 of the Court Martial Procedure Rules of 2003, as well as section 182 of the Criminal Procedure Act which border on the minimum number of jurors to be empanelled in a criminal matter.

He submitted that the trial should continue on the next adjourned date even if the board member was absent in court for the second time.

However, defence counsel Ishmael Philip Mammy, who was supposed to have presented his final witnesses, objected to the prosecution’s application, citing the Armed Forces Act of 1961, which according to him makes specific provision on the legal minimum of board members in a court martial.

The Judge Advocate is aided by six experienced military officers, inclusive of the president, which constitute the court martial board.

The defence argues that in the absence of one of the board members, the Armed Forces Act provides that the remaining five can sit on the matter and that the absence of one member made no difference because the prosecution had earlier applied for the matter to proceed on the next adjourned date, irrespective of whether a board member is absent in court.

Though he did not have the Armed Forces Act in court, the defence counsel submitted that the trial should proceed in the interest of progress.

However, Judge Advocate Otto During upheld the application of the prosecution and adjourned the matter to 15 April, noting that though time was of the essence, the understanding of the principle of the law was more of essence and that if the defence had provided in court the Act in question he would have ruled in their favour.

The accused are in court for mutiny, conspiracy to mutiny and failure to suppress mutiny, among other charges, but they deny all the charges.

They have been in detention since their arrest in August 2013.