Treason trial: Defense counsel says they were ambushed, embarrassed by state counsel’s application

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By Yusufu S. Bangura

One of the defense counsels in the on-going treason trial of 12 alleged coup plotters, representing the 8th accused (Bai Mamoud Bangura) and the 10th accused persons (Tamba Yamba), Musa Pious Sesay, on Thursday,February 2nd , told Justice Komba Kamanda that they were ambushed and embarrassed by the state counsel’s  application for an amendment on the indictments.

He made the above statement after the prosecuting attorney, Ahmed James M Bockarie, applied for an amendment to be made on the indictments dated 10th January, 2024.

His application was made pursuant to Section 23 of the 1991 Constitution; sub Section 4, paragraph B and C, in which he requested for fear trail and adequate time.

He said his clients have not been privileged to be confronted with the proposed amendment on the overt act and in the circumstance requested for an adjournment to have proper conference with his clients.

Prior to that, when the matter was mentioned and the charges were about to be read to the accused persons, the state counsel made an application for an amendment on all the indictments.

His application was made pursuant to Section 148 (1)(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act No.32 of 1965, adding that the provision of sub Section 2 of Section 148 requires the endorsement of the amendment set on the face of the indictments.

Lawyer Bockarie added that the amendment they were seeking from the court required insertion of the overt act.

He added that the amendment does not in any way violate the consent and writing of the said indictments, noting that they did not add any other count or offenses which were not ordered by the court.

“My lord, the indictments will not in any way prejudice the accused persons,” he said.

Lawyer Africanus Sorie Sesay in reply to the application for an amendment on the indictments said they were not privy by the amendment.

In the circumstance, he requested for an adjournment for them to have conference with their clients, including the 8th accused Bai Mamoud Bangura, which will determine their next step, adding that they were taking by surprise owing to the large number of  accused persons.

He said the issues raised by the state prosecutor were very expensive and of factual nature, stating that it is important for them to go back to their clients and discuss the issues with them.

State counsel Bockarie, in reply to lawyer Pious Sesay’s application, said his application was wrong, adding that Section 23, sub Section 4, paragraph B and C does not exist in the 1991 Constitution.

He said another issue that the defense raises was that they were not served with the indictments and that Section 148 is not mandatory for them to serve the defense team with the proposed indictments.

He said they were all listening to his application for an amendment and that he has no intention to ambush or embarrass  the defense team because the accused persons knew the offenses for which they were charged, and that no new charges were added.

He  therefore prayed for the court to grant his application.

In his ruling, Justice Komba Kamanda said granting an order for an amendment in the instant case would not lead to injustice because the accused persons are all aware of the charges against them ,as no new charges have been added in the amended indictments.

He said he had also heard the legal argument and submission from the defense team that the instant application will lead to an embarrassment and injustice because the accused persons have been served with the indictments already and they should be made aware of the proposed amendment before such application can be granted.

Going further, he said he had  averted his mind to Section 148 sub Section 1 and 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act No.32 of 1965, and he had also considered the application of Section 23 of the 1991 Constitution Act No.6 of 1991.

He stated that he took both application into consideration because the perusal of both provisions of the laws are not at variance, they bother on fair trial.

 He said the first issue he considered was that, whether the instant application made by the prosecutor falls within the ambit of the law and from the reading of Section 148, sub Section 1 and 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act No 32 of 1965, the instant application was made at the right stage and time.

He said it is only after an order has been granted, allowing the prosecutor to amend any service of the proposed indictments, because without an order from court is illegal, therefore the application was properly before the court.

“I therefore ordered that the application of the prosecution to amend the indictment is granted. Also, the prosecution should file and serve the amended indictments to all the accused persons not later than 1PM  of today’s date. The matter was adjourned to the 7th February 2024 for further hearing.

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