The 14 United Democratic Party supporters were acquitted and discharged by a magistrate court in Brikama.
The supporters were arrested and subsequently detained on February 2, 2014. Lamin Marong, Lamin Sonko, Foday Gassama, Maimuna Darboe, Ousman Drammeh, Sherrif Kinteh, Jerreh Fatty, Fakebba Colley, Sirreh Sonko, Bakary Gibbba, Wandifa Kinteh, Kawsu Jaiteh, Yaya Njai, and Lamin Njai were acquitted of all the charges holding illegal political meeting at Madiana village in Kombo North.
The prosecution closed its case after hearing testimonies from six witnesses. The defense lawyer instead filed “a no case to answer submission.” In the said application, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe asked the court to acquit and discharge the accused persons of the two counts of unlawful assembly and prohibition of conduct conducive to a breach of the peace.
Darboe said despite calling six witnesses, the prosecution failed to substantiate a prima facie case. Lawyer Darboe also said the prosecution’s evidence regarding Section 9 of the Public Order Act is contradictory. He said this section refers to a public place where the gathering took place.
Lawyer Darboe added none of the witnesses corroborate any act of breach of peace. He said the confirmation of the emptiness of the compound by both Madiana Alkalo and Station Officer Bahoum meant the accused persons had no case to answer. One of the accused persons, Foday Gassama, said ‘let no one fear anything as here is our country and we are ready to die as UDP supporters.’ The legal luminary did not see any illegality in Mr. Gassama’s statement.
Darboe cited Sections 69 and 70 of the Criminal Code to prove the prosecution wrong that the charges lacked merits. He said one must have the intention to commit an offense and that it is not a crime to organize a political meeting.
“This is a misuse of the Criminal Justice System. If these people were criminals they would have been on the run, not to report themselves at the police station. No iota of evidence has been made for the prosecution to prove their case. I therefore submit that the accused persons be acquitted and discharged by the court,” said the defense lawyer.
The prosecution countered the defense lawyer’s submission, arguing that the accused persons have a case to answer. Inspector Ebrima Sarr urged the court to rely on witness testimonies and proceed with the trial
In his ruling before a crowed court in Brikama, principal Magistrate Dayoh Dago Small ruled that all the 14 accused persons have no case to answer. His ruling was based on the premise that everyone in the Gambia has fundamental rights to freedom of association and assembly. Magistrate Small added that no one needs a permit to hold meetings on a private property and that it was not necessary to inform the village Alkalo of their intention to hold such a meeting.
He therefore acquitted and discharged all the accuse persons on all the counts.