Gambian police on Thursday decided to amend the charges against the editor and freelance journalist of The Voice Newspaper, replacing conspiracy to commit felony with conspiracy to commit misdemenour.
The prosecution’s application for the amendment was on Thursday granted by Magistrate Lamin Mbye of Banjul Magistrate’s Court.
Sheriff and Marenah had earlier pleaded innocent to the charges of conspiracy to commit felony and publication of false news.
Prosecution witness Lamin Jammeh took the witness stand. He told the court that he was on January 7, 2014 directed by the Inspector General of Police to investigate into The Voice Newspaper’s story on the defection of 19 ruling party youths to the opposition United Democratic Party. Jammeh said police at Kotu obtained statements from both the journalists and ruling party leaders in Tanji. “Our investigation proved that Marenah wrote the story and passed it to Sheriff to edit.
“On 30 November, 2013, there was a political rally held at Tanji Youth Centre but there was no speaker at the said meeting who mention about the cross carpeting of 19 green youths to the opposition party,” he told the court. “Our panel found out that there are 58 green youths in Tanji most of who were not in Tanji.”
Under cross-examination, the witness described the reported defection story as false. At this stage Prosecutor Musa Camara applied to tender a copy of the newspaper. Defence counsel raised an objection, arguing “the prosecutor did not satisfy Section 22 of the Evidence Act.
“It is common knowledge that newspapers are not printed by hand. In this day and age, newspapers are printed through computers,” Lawyer Lamin Camara said. He argued that prosecution needed to lay the foundation for the paper to be tendered in court as required by the law. Lawyer Camara urged the court to reject to dismiss the application.
Prosecutor countered with an argument that Section 22 is irrelevant in this issue. “It is common knowledge that newspapers are produced by newspapers and disseminated to the general public,” Prosecutor Camara said, urging the court to admit the document.
The case continues on February 19 when Magistrate Mbye is expected to rule on the application.