President of Board rejected!
By Alusine Sesay
The proposed President of the Board of the Court Martial established to try 14 military officers for an alleged mutiny was yesterday rejected, after an objection by the defence was upheld by Judge Advocate Otto During.
The defense had during the last hearing vehemently objected to the appointment of Colonel Usman Turay as president of the Board. Lead defense counsel Julius Nye Cuffie had questioned the credibility and fairness of Colonel Turay to serve in the aforementioned position.
Lawyer Cuffie had argued that their objection was grounded on the principle of actual biased as they strongly believe that the case of the accused would be prejudiced from the outset if the colonel was allowed to serve as president of the Board.
According to the defence counsel, Colonel Turay was recently expelled from the military war college in Jaji, Nigeria, for misconduct, thus they were of the firm conviction that the rejected president of the Board should not serve in that position as any such individual should have exemplary character.
“The expulsion of the proposed president impinges upon his character, good conduct and probity, especially when he is a senior officer of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces,” he had submitted, adding that thus “the proposed president is not a fit and proper person to sit in the judgment of his peers.”
He said the Court Martial Procedures of 2003 gives the president of the Board tremendous powers and responsibilities during the journey of the court martial proceedings.
“It is the submission of the defense that the holder of that office must be of conspicuous probity and integrity capable of dispensing equity and fairness without fear or favour, ill-will or malice,” he noted.
Also, the defense had submitted that there was an issue between the rejected president and the 14th accused (Captain Prince Sesay), wherein the accused was charged, but subsequently freed upon the production of a document to a military tribunal which implicated the proposed president, who was then his commanding officer.
“Since then, it has created bad blood between the 14th accused and the proposed president. Anytime the proposed president and the 14th accused met, the proposed president would cast aspersion on the 14th accused that he is bad soldier,” he had further submitted.
Julius Cuffie Esq. had also cited article 6 of the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which he said largely emphasises the need for a fair trial of any accused person in an open court, hence stating that “It is the application of the defense that the proposed president recluse from this trial.”
Though the prosecution, led by Principal State Counsel Gerald Soyei had argued that the defense could not substantiate their claims before the court martial, Judge Advocate Otto During, however, ruled that “Without prejudice to the proposed president I therefore uphold the objection of the defense in this matter.”
He said all citizens, including the accused (Captain Prince Sesay) who instructed the defense to raise the objection, are entitled to fair trial in any court of law. “Whether the objection raised by the defense was true or false, all citizens are entitled to fair trial. Justice and fair trial must not be illusive but seen to be done.”
Meanwhile, the entire Board has been dissolved with the disqualification of the president. The Chief of Defense Staff is now expected to empanel another Board, with the appointment of a president.
The accused mutineers include:
v RSLAF 18180259, Private Momoh Kargbo
v RSLAF 18164277, Warrant Officer Class II Frederick Johnson
v RSLAF 18180170, Private Abdulia Coker Suma
v RSLAF 181664033, Corporal Mohamed Massaquoi
v RSLAF 18181322, Lance Corporal Momoh Conteh
v RSLAF 18177830, Private Tamba Sheku
v RSLAF 18178603, Private Gbessay Koroma
v RSLAF 18182001, Private Alpha Mansaray
v RSLAF 18164718, Corporal Alex Jibao Koroma
v RSLAF 18180146, Private Mustapha Quee
v RSLAF 18180020, Private Kellie Kamara
v RSLAF18182702, Private Musa Fabai
v RSLAF 18180143, Private Bobor Rogers
v SL 1087, Captain Prince Sesay.