By Abdoulie John

The top brass of the Three Years Jotna made today appearance before the Kanifing Magistrates’court as they face three counts of unlawful assembly, rioting after proclamation, and rioters demolishing structures.

Abdou Njie, Ebrima Cham, Sheriffo Sonko, Hagi Suwaneh, Fanta Mballow, Karim Touray, Yankuba Darboe and Muctarr Ceesay were part of the 137 people arrested by the Police after their protest march turned violent.

Last Sunday, members of Three Years Jotna took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Barrow after the three-year transition period ended. Violence ensued prompting Gambian authorities to to cancel their permit before slapping the collective with a ban.

Amid heavy security presence and a packed courtroom, today’s hearing was also marked by an intense legal battle between the prosecution and the defense team.

The Lead Prosecutor, Momodou D. Mballow argued that count 1 and 2 have imprisonment term of one year and 5 years, respectively.

But he was quick to add: “Count 3 attracts life imprisonment”  while making it very clear that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Laying out his argument, Police prosecutor Mballow further stated that in 2009, Chief A.K Savage, issued a Legal Notice, creating a special criminal division of the High Court with the mandate to exclusively preside over capital offences.

“Our submission is count 3 constitutes a capital offence. We are applying for the case to be transferred to the special criminal division of the High Court,” he said.

Additionally, Mballow told the court that bail cannot be granted to the accused persons.”Remand all the accused persons pending their appearance before the High Court.”

Led by senior lawyer Lamin S. Camara, the entire legal team that stood for the nominated lawmaker Ya Kumba Jaiteh in her case against the State, has decided to throw its weight behind the Jotna movement.

In his element, Lawyer Camara told the court that it has all the powers of a subordinate court to try this matter.

“A subordinate court may pass any sentence authorized by law,” he emphasized

Deconstructing the argument of the prosecution, Camara said the Legal Notice is not an Act of Parliament, and cannot take away the jurisdiction of the court.

On count 3, Camara made it clear that sentence to life imprisonment is not mandatory unlike capital punishment.

Weighing in on a possible bail for the accused persons, Camara said: “both counts 1 and 3 are ipso facto bailable.”

After an hour-long standoff, Presiding Magistrate P. Sarr ruled in favour of the prosecution, referring the case to High Court. Consequently, the eight members of Three Years Jotna are remanded in custody at Mile Two pending their appearance before the High Court…

Ends

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