After I ran part 1 to 4 on whether the Minnesota Federal Courts will deliver justice in the trial of the trio (Papa Faal, Cherno Njie, and Alhagie Saidy Barrow), I wanted make the intended final submission, part 5, very interactive for readers. It will capture the stipulated law, the charges and the likely outcome. From there we can all weigh in to what might constitute true justice as concerned citizens.
According the U.S Department of justice, the trios are charged with:
(1) Conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act, 1 count
(2) Conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, 1 count
“Whoever, within the United States, knowingly begins or sets on foot or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition or enterprise to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people with whom the United States is at peace, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both” (Expedition against a friendly nation. Culled from the web http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title18/html/USCODE-2011-title18-partI-chap45-sec960.htm on 2/17/2015).
So let us first acknowledge the existence of the U.S Neutrality ACT law. The Gambia is considered as a friendly nation to the United States, so the United States Government can prosecute anyone that violates their laws, basis for the charges and ongoing trial for the trios. It must be clearly noted that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a competent court of law.
The U.S Government Allegations & Likely Evidence:
The U.S Government alleges that the trios participated in the foiled coup attempt in the Gambia on December 30th 2014, and as such they violated the stipulated U.S Neutrality ACT. From the court proceedings, the United States Government is relying on a planning document forfeited from one of the computers of the participants. Such a document details A to Z of the whole operation, including the whole operational procedure. The other known likely evidence is Papa Faal’s revelation when he met the Federal attaché in Dakar, Senegal. It is already a known fact that Faal pleaded guilty to the charges, consistent with his revelations in Senegal. The third evidence which is not evidence against the accused, but evidence that some operation took place to dislodge the Government of the Gambia around December 30th 2014, is the registered casualties, and the Gambian Government pronouncement on TV on the alleged participants. With countries sharing information, it is possible that the U.S Government might be privy to other things, which they haven’t raised in court yet.
We know that Papa Faal pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him. Alhagie Saidy Barrow hasn’t taken any guilty plea yet and it is more than likely he will plead not guilty. We also know Cherno Njie pleaded not guilty to the charges. All three defendants were granted bail to a transition point (half-house), from where they will be released shortly to stay with their families after satisfaction of the probation requirements. All three defendants were allowed to seek employment or continue on their businesses. There is a restriction on travel outside the United States and internet access for the safety of the defendants and to ensure that they do not hatch another coup.
The Defense Arguments:
The Defense has so far argued that their clients are responsible family men with no prior criminal record. The defense in the case of Cherno Njie argued that all the U.S Government has was a mere document and that is not evidence. In the case of Barrow, his defense attorney argued that Barrow is a hero.
It is possible for the defense attorney to argue that Gambians were under dictatorship. While the U.S Neutrality Act was violated, but dictatorship is enough for sympathy from a country like the U.S, the very reason that motivated established men to carry on such an operation. At that point, the defense attorney can utilize submitted attestation letters, the petitions online, and even call on potential witnesses willingly to put forward what they know about Jammeh’s human right abuses. At that point, the defense attorney can call for the Neutrality Act to be waived.
The Defense in the case of Cherno Njie can render Government’s evidence as not true, by arguing that papa’s testimony suggests that participants were known to one another by code names and again it is entirely on Government to prove that so and so was John Doe. The burden of proof lies entirely on the prosecuting body.
The Government’s pressing on allegations:
The U.S Government on its part, will quote the violated law, use any testimonies they gathered, including the document they forfeited which seems to be their main reference in court. They will try to convince the Federal Judges that the trios committed the offences. It is unlikely that they will bring witnesses if at all they have any.
Waiver of the Neutrality ACT:
It is possible for the U.S to waive this law and drop these charges. In 2007, Hmong Leader General Vang Pao and many others were charged with conspiracy to launch a coup against the Laos Government. Such charges were eventually dropped, “Federal prosecutors in Sacramento dropped charges on Monday against 11 Hmong expatriates and a former U.S. Army officer accused of plotting to violently overthrow the Laotian government, ending a 3 1/2-year legal saga that attracted international attention” (The LA Times. Culled from the web http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/11/local/la-me-hmong-plot-20110111 on 2/17/2015), and in it during the termination of the case, the Government attorney argued thus,” Based on the totality of the circumstances in the case, the government believes, as a discretionary matter, that continued prosecution of defendants is no longer warranted.”
The Final Verdict Possibilities:
It is possible to have the Federal Judges dismiss the cases on the grounds of lacking convincing evidence, where the defense attorney can truly establish that the forfeited document and any other known testimony is not evidence against their clients.
The U.S Neutrality law can be also waived as noted with the late General Vang Pao and his alleged conspirators.
The Federal Judges can also found all the defendants guilty based on gathered evidence and testimonies of participants. At that point, the defense will enter plea of mitigation in sympathy of the defendants’ past records and family status. The Judge will at that point determine the appropriate punishment as stipulated in the law.
My Reflective Conclusion:
We can at that point again ask: Has Justice been served? I want to conclude that regardless of the outcome, the Minnesota Federal Courts have potential to deliver justice. My solidarity for the comrades on going the trial is intact, and the nature in which they were charged by the U.S Government still bothers me, though I have utmost respect for the law, especially the United States, a country that has given hope and home to lot of other nationalities. As a firm believer of justice, my duty first was to respect any law that truly represents, and second petitioning a responsible Government to make such a law truly representing. I further believe that the U.S Neutrality ACT has the tendency to rob people of a very freeing entity, which is revolting against repressive governments, in which case the victims of tyranny stands to be the only victims. With that said, I humbly leave the rest to the courts to decide and I use the same token to encourage all freedom fighters to petition their Governments in what they want to see in constitutions that represents them. I am asking the United States Government to temper justice with mercy and free all the defendants in connection with the foiled December 30th alleged coup in the Gambia. Dictatorship is a pain in the butt. Freedom is so sweet that everyone yearns for it. Unfortunately the oppressor never accords it to the oppressed, as such the oppressed is constantly in effort to be free. I also in the same vein hope that the Jammeh administration will take this opportunity to rehabilitate itself, to avoid any further danger to itself and citizens.
Note: I want to take the opportunity to thank all the online mediums for publishing the series. It was encouraging to hear the different feedbacks and that kept me being able to reach to the end of the series. It was even more encouraging to get the support from all the editors and other activists who are all crying for justice and a liberated Gambia.