Defense opens case in Mayor Aki Sawyer’s matter

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By Jeneba A.Conteh

After the prosecution closed their case in a summary trail into the alleged disorderly behaviour of the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Akie Sawyer, the latter on Monday, January 16, 2023, testified before Magistrate Mark Ngegba at the Pademba Road Court No.1 in Freetown, where the defense opened it case.

The Mayor is before the court on two count charges of obstruction of police duty and disorderly behaviour contrary to law.

Police alleged that, on Saturday, 17th September, 2022, at the Airport Police Division, Lungi, Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom, Port Loko Judicial District, the accused Yvonne Akie Sawyer obstructed Sergeant Richard Junior Caulker and Corporal 12225 Fanta Fofanah, while executing their lawful duties and did behave in a disorderly manner.

Led in evidence by lead defense counsel, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, Akie Sawyerr as the first defense witness, disclosed that pursuant to the Local Government Act, some of her functions and responsibilities are to head the city council.

 She said the city council in turn has the responsibility to promote development and in charge of overall management, among other things, and also as set out in the  local Government Act, to promote the welfare of citizens within the municipality of Freetown and might have cause to travel to seek external funding in complementing the government’s development agenda. 

She recalled on the 17th September,2022, when she was scheduled to travel to New York on an invitation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was to speak on the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings. 

She said as part of the invitation she received from the foundation, she was to be accompanied by a member of the relevant committee or a member of staff.

She said she was accompanied by the chairperson of the Development and Urban Planning Committee of the Freetown City Council in the person of Councillor Sheku Turay.

She recalled that in the morning hours of the 17th September, 2022, Councilor Turay came to her residence so that they could travel together and that they boarded a boat from Sea Coach in which they met two cabinet ministers of government 

She said upon arrival at the Lungi Airport, they was offered kind services including the handling of their baggage and the immigration and proceeded to the VIP airport’s lounge.

She further mentioned that the protocol team checked the passport and that before long, their passport and boarding pass were handed over to them to board the flight to New York.

Mayor Aki Sawyerr continues that having completed security checks and boarding passes handed over to them, Councilor Alhassan Sheku Gibril went for 4pm Muslim prayers.

She stated that she heard an announcement that passenger Sheku Alhassan Gibril Turay is required by the immigration and that the councilor turned to her and informed her that he was being called.

She added that she responded that he should go and answer to the call, for according to the Mayor, it was just a routine check.

She said twenty minutes later she started getting repeated calls from an unknown phone number that and she couldn’t pick.

She said since the calls were persistent, she sent a text message saying the person sends her a text message. 

At the stage of the testimony, State Counsel Yusif Isaac Sesay, interjected and told the court that the defense counsel, in doing his examination in chief, must allow the witness to state the fact and refrain from asking questions that suggest the answer.

The Mayor said she later received a text that says ‘Mayor this is Councilor I.S.T’, and that she decided to call the number and asked the councilor about his whereabouts.

She said the councilor responded that he had been arrested and that he was at the police station.

The Mayor said she immediately telephoned the Minister of Planning and Economic Development and intimated him about the councilor’s arrest.

The Mayor said Minister KaiKai told her that he didn’t know anybody at Lungi and that she should call the immigration.

Mayor Aki Sawyer said she walked out of the VIP Lounge  and decided to look around for the police station, but noted that she was to take off at 7:45 and that it was already 7:15pm.

She recalled that a military police officer helped her with the direction the police station, and that the military officer helped her with her bag and led her to the said police station.

The Mayor gave a description of the police station where councilor Turay was being detained.

She told the court that she greeted the officer on desk and asked about the whereabouts of Councilor Turay  and that  while she was speaking, the military officer introduced her to the police officer.

She said  before long she heard Councilor Turay’s voice saying “Mayor ar dae Ya’ (Mayor am here)..

The Mayor said she saw another police officer stepped into the room while she was at the door.

 She said  in the police room was a lady wearing a pink clothes and that she asked the police officers if they had a warrant for the councilor’s  arrest  and that the two officers replied to her that they were junior officers and cannot respond to the issue of warrant.

She said in that circumstance, she requested to speak to senior personnel and that a female officer directed her to the Local Unit Commander,who couldn’t help.

 “l took out my phone and recorded and sent on Facebook what I  experienced at the airport,” she testified.

Mayor described her experience as deeply traumatizing and therefore thought it was appropriate to communicate it to the world because she wanted someone to give her answers as to why the councilor was arrested at the airport.

She said while at the LUC’s  office she received a call that the flight had boarded and that while they transit though Guinea, she received a text message from a police officer at the airport that there had been a mix up that the councilor’s suitcase was on the plane and that it was her suitcase that was taken by the police.

During that course, the Mayor said her phone was persistently ringing by an unknown numbers.

She said when she finally responded, Councilor Turay informed her that he had been arrested and was at the police station at Lungi, which she estimated was about 150 meters from the airport. 

During cross examination by State Counsel,Yusif Isaac Sesay, the mayor said he and Councilor Turay  arrived at the lounge at around 4pm and that the conference call went on till 7pm.

She said she wasn’t informed about the reason for Councilor Turay’s arrest and the prosecutor put to her that she didn’t inquire from the immigration and police about the arrest.

The witness disagreed.

But she agreed that the councilor had told her he had been arrested and interrogated in relation to the August 10 insurrection.

State Counsel put it to the witness that a warrant of arrest can only be put to the person being arrested and not the witness, but defense counsel objected. But Magistrate Marke Ngegba overruled defense counsel.

When State Counsel put it to the witness that she went to the police station to prevent the Councilor from making a statement, she said, no. 

At that stage, State Counsel requested for an adjournment, adding that he has another matter at the High Court. But defense counsel, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara objected, noting that his commitment elsewhere was irrelevant. 

Magistrate Marke Ngegba noted that it was the spirit of the Court to ensure speedy trial, but cannot determine the number of questions the prosecution should ask. 

Magistrate Mark Ngegba  adjourned the matter to Thursday 19th January 2023.

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