Treason trial…

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Prosecution not compelled to tender State House CCTV Footage

-Judge rules

June 2, 2020

By Ibrahim Kabba Turay

Justice Alhaji Momoh Jah Stevens has ruled in the ongoing treason trail of Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh and two others that the prosecution is not compelled to tender as evidence the footage of Close Circuit Television (CCTV) at State House.

The judge said if the Office of the Presidency wants to present the footage it is fine, but he cannot coerced  them to do so, citing Section 48 (4) of the 1991 Constitution which notes among others that one cannot bring an action against the Office of the President.

The said Section reads thus: “(4) While any person holds or performs the functions of the office of President, no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him either in his official or private capacity.”

It follows after the defense counsel representing Palo Conteh, Joseph F. Kamara applied for the court to proceed behind closed doors to view the CCTV footage of his client’s visit to State House.

His application was objected to by the prosecuting counsel, Adrian Fisher, on the grounds that such issues attract national security interest and that the security around the presidency shouldn’t be discussed in either public or private.

The defense counsel argued that if the prosecution could not provide the footage to the defense, then he doesn’t think if there is any treason charge against his client.

Lawyer Joseph .F Kamara submitted that the defense team was only interested in the time the first accused entered State House and nothing else.

“We don’t want to know who visit State House, our concern is when the first accused entered State House,” he submitted, adding that the prosecution wanted to have a field day under the guise of national security.    

Prior to that, the seventh prosecution witness, Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Moriba Kposowa, who is the Director of security and Head of the Joint Presidential Guard Force, told the court that the ground floor at State House has a CCTV system, but for security reasons he can’t disclose its surveillance system.

Dressed in full military regalia, the head of the JPGF said the ground floor at State House also has a scanner and metal detector that scanned visitors.

He testified that in the morning hours of March 19th, 2020, after giving security instructions, he was at his office when he received a phone call from one Captain Angel informing him of what has transpired at the ground floor.

He said upon receiving that information, he went at the reception and upon his arrival, he spoke to Sergeant Ngaima and that the explanation from Ngaima became a security concern which warranted him to call the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to scene.

Kposowa told the sparsely crowded courtroom that he took the CID officers to the office of State Chief of Protocol where Palo Conteh was seated together with other people who were invited to the meeting.

He said when he entered the office, Palo Conteh shouted his name ‘Kposowa’ and he saluted him and said ‘good morning sir’.

The head of the JPGF added that Palo Conteh confirmed that he is the owner of the brown bag and that he informed him (Palo) that he has been told by his security personnel that they caught him with Gluck 17 pistol.

He said Palo Conteh confirmed that he is the owner of the pistol and has a valid license for it.

He said with the bag in his hand, the accused put his hand into the side pocket and removed the firearm license bearing his name.

The witness said he handed over the pistol to his Chief Security Officer who unloaded it and noticed that it had ten live rounds.

He told the court that he then handed over the said pistol to the CID officers who put it in safety mode and informed everyone that Palo Conteh will not attend the meeting with the president because of security reasons.

“I therefore asked for him to be taken to separate room and obtain statement from him,” he said.

He noted during cross examination that he decided to invite the CID because he had been a personal staff to the accused and so he wanted an independent body to intervene.

He said there were no live rounds in the chamber and per military protocol it meant the weapon was not ready.

Also, Staff Sergeant 4645 Alhaji Brima Ngiama, the fifth prosecution witness told the court that the first accused bypassed the Scanner and Metal Detector, but was intercepted by the scanning operator. 

Sergeant Negiam recalled on 19th March 2020, while on duty at first floor around 8:30am, he was instructed by his boss Chief Superintendent Sylvester Amos that he should go to the ground floor and informed the security guards that there was going to be a meeting with the President.

He said he went straight to the reception and informed the scanning operator Police Constable Gbakie , Staff Sergeant Dauda, and Staff Sergeant Kposowa about the said meeting.

He said while he was delivering the message he saw the first accused Palo Conteh standing by the wooding door to the entrance, but was later seen squeezing himself in between the wall and the metal detector with a brown bag in his right hand

He added that after Gbakie had  intercepted  him and asked why he did not scan his bag and pass through the metal detector like other visitors had done, but that  the accused did not listen to Gbakie after three successive calls.

He said the first accused went at the reception to Staff Sergeant Dauda Yemi and raised his bag up and said he has a weapon in it and left for upstairs.

He said they collected the bag from Sergeant Yemi, scanned it and discovered that there was pistol in it.

He said he later went to inform his bosses what had transpired but on his way he met with captain Angel and explained to him what had happened at the reception between the first accused and the security personnel.

He said captain Angel informed Colonel  Mohamed M. Kposowa,the Director of Joint  Presidential Guard Force (JPGF) and he was later asked to make a statement to CID

Whilst putting to the test the evidence of the witness, Lawyer J.F. Kamara quizzed the witness when last spoke to the prosecution lawyers, the witness retorted that he has never spoken to the prosecution and that he has been deployed at State House for over two years.

The sixth prosecution witness, Staff Sergeant Margaret Kposowa, also a security Officer attached to State House as a recorder at the reception, said she recalled on the 19th March, 2020 whilst on duty at State House, with three of his colleague Officers, she saw the first accused bypassing the metal detector and the scanning machine and wanted to go upstairs with a brown bag in his hand.

She said the accused was intercepted by the scanning operator Gbakie who asked him to scan his bag, but he did not do so.

“I also intercepted the first accused, but he refused to scan his brown bag, and he later went to staff Sergeant Dauda and handed over the bag to him saying he has a weapon in the bag and he went upstairs,” she said

Lawyer J.F Kamara in his cross examination asked the witness where did she made her statement, the witness said she made her statement at State House, but lawyer Kamara said the witness made her statement at the (CID).

She was further asked if there is any C.C.T.V camera at the ground floor where she is working, but declined knowledge about its existence.

Retired Alfred Paolo Conteh, Retired Colonel Saa Anthony Sinnah and Prince George Jusu, are before the court for 16 count charges ranging from treason, possession of unlicensed firearms, perjury, to importation of small arms without valid license, but they have denied the charges.

The state is represented by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Pricilla Schwartz,Director of Public Prosecution, Easmon Ngakui, Adrian Fisher and J.A.K Sesay while the defense team includes Dr. Abdulai O.Conteh, Joseph F. Kamara former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and Ady Macaulley,