(JollofNews) – A magistrates’ court in the Gambia Wednesday acquitted two Muslim elders who were charged with defying the orders of President Yahya Jammeh.
Sheikh Muhideen Hydara, 81, a senior cleric of Darsilami Sangajor, Kombo Kansala District, West Coast Region and his former village head, Buyeh Touray, were arrested and detained incommunicado for many days by security officers after they allegedly defied President Yahya Jammeh’s orders to observe the Muslim feast of Eid-ul- Fitr on 28th July 2014.
Prosecutors said the men had ‘conspired to commit misdemeanour and disobedience of lawful order’ when they observed the feast on 29th July 2014 contrary to section 368 and section 116 of the Criminal Code of the Gambia and has asked the Brikama Magistrates’ Court to punish them accordingly.
But in his landmark ruling, Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh of the Brikama Court said the prosecution’s evidence was so discredited by the defence team of the accused persons that they were so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal can safely convict on it.
Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh said after going through the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the accused persons, he decided to centre his ruling on two issues that were raised by the defence team who have questioned the prosecution’s failure to tender in evidence the order that was issued by the president for the men to observe the Muslim feast of Eid-ul- Fitr on 28th July 2014.
He said although the men were charged with disobeying the lawful orders of President Jammeh, the prosecution in their bid to prove their case did not tender any evidence as exhibit before the court to show that the orders disobeyed were from the President of the Republic of the Gambia.
The magistrate added that the prosecution also failed to call the governor of West Coast Region, who according to section 124(1a) of the Local Government Act of 2002 ‘represents the president and the central government in the Local Government Area and accordingly; exercises executive powers in the area’. He said the testimony of the governor cannot be equated to any of the prosecution witnesses who testified before the court.
He also faulted the prosecution’s failure to call another material witness from the state television, GRTS, as the medium who allegedly announced the lawful orders of the President that were allegedly disobeyed by the accused persons.
He added that he had gone through a video tape recorded produced in court by the deputy director general of GRTS announcing that 27th July 2014 was Eid day in Gambia, but it was never mentioned in the entire video that the president had ordered Gambians to observe Eid on that day.
“The six man panel that made the Eid announcement are a delegation from the Supreme Islamic Council of the Gambia never in their statements said that the announcement is from the president,” he said.
“I am satisfied by the evidence and submission of the defence that the president did not make any announcement over GRTS sanctioning Edul-Fitr prayers on a specific date. And it is my considered view that the prosecution has woefully failed flat again to prove that the announcement by GRTS was from the President of the Republic with the certainty required by law.”
The magistrate added that the prosecution had also failed to prove the conspiracy case against the two men beyond any reasonable doubt. He therefore acquitted and discharged them accordingly.