Court Martial Trial Ends - Sierra Leone News

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Court Martial Trial Ends





 After defense counsels closed their case in the ongoing Court Martial trial on Tuesday May 7, 2019, the Presiding Judge Advocate Alhaji Momoh-Jah Stevens disclosed that the trial has ended.

“The trial has ended. What comes after the closure of the case is not a trial but a process,” Judge Advocate Stevens told both the defense and prosecution counsels. “The case has been closed.”
Justice Stevens stated that the court will not sit next week so that both the defense and prosecution counsels will have enough time to prepare for their address. He added, “After the address, I will do a summing up the following week.”

He cautioned the legal representatives to make use of the time given to them because he will not give them an additional day for their address. “Please don’t ask me for another date for the address,” he warned. He said that this is a very serious matter because just single missing ammunition will be a big issue in the army, “let alone talk about thousands of missing ammunitions”.

The trial came to an end after 19 appearances.

The ongoing trial is presided by the Judge Advocate, Alhaji Momoh-Jah Stevens and the court martial board: Lieutenant Colonel Kerifa Kamara, president of court martial board; Lieut. Col. A. B. Keita; Major Victor Momoh; Major Brima Ngavuwa Sama; and Major Sallieu Kallon.

The court martial is constituted in Freetown to hear a case of three soldiers of the former Joint Presidential Guard Forces (JPGF): Captain Patrick E. Kamara, 1st accused; Samuel Conteh, Warrant Officer Class 1, 2nd accused; and Abu Bakarr Jalloh, Warrant Officer Class 2, 3rd accused. They are accused of willfully damaging service property - 1,600 rounds of 14.5 mm anti-aircraft ammunition and 178 rounds of 12.7mm anti-aircraft ammunition, all to the value of $10,401.40 Le88, 401,900 property of Government of Sierra Leone; conspired to steal ammunition; and involved in a conduct which is prejudicial to the group order and military discipline.

In proving its case, the prosecution called 20 witnesses. It is the principle of law that it is the prosecution that will prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt. Prior to the closing of the case after 11 court martial hearings, the prosecutors led 20 witnesses and tendered about 15 exhibits to prove its case against the accused persons. The witnesses comprise senior officers from both military and Police including two civilians. The evidential burden lies on the prosecution to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt.

In defending the case, defense counsel for the first accused, Lawyer Ady Macaulay called Captain P. E. Kamara to take the witness stand and two additional witnesses on behalf of the first accused.

The defense counsel for the second accused, Lawyer D. Taylor did not call his client to the witness stand but rather rely on the voluntarily caution statement his client made at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Also, the defense counsel for the third accused, Amadu Koroma did not call an additional witness, but his client took the witness stand.

In total, the prosecution led 20 witnesses, and the defense counsels led four witnesses. The prosecution tendered about 15 exhibits, while the defense counsel for the first accused, Lawyer Macaulay also tendered some exhibits, but the counsel for the second and third accused did not tender exhibits.

Giving the reason why his client [3rd accused] did not taking the witness stand, Lawyer D. Taylor said, “I have been carefully examining the case against the second accused. I am of the view that the prosecution has failed to make a case against the second accused on all the count charges.”

He added that none of the evidences tendered in the court martial whether direct, indirect or oblige have established any of the Actus reus or mens rear that is required to prove the charges as prescribed upon which the trial is predicated.

“Even the circumstantial evidence proffered by the prosecution is legless,” he claimed. “During the course of the prosecution case, a number of other possibilities were raised. Possibilities in which in some instances during the course of the investigation, the investigators turned blind eyes to.”

He said that “some of the count charges naturally have to fall because they are based on the same sequences [duplicate]. One of the most palpable demean of the prosecution is to lean on the conspiracy charge. No evidence of conspiracy has been established.”

He claimed that the evidences clearly show that at the time the second accused was removed, there was an undisputable disharmony between the second accused and the first accused. “The second accused narrated the circumstances upon which he was removed and the investigators did not verify it,” he claimed. “Nothing in the custody of the second accused where missing. As the investigation did not establish or enquire into the stock he took. In fact, the investigators were indifferent to knowing and on the basis of this, the nature of the investigation cannot permit them.”

“We have no case to answer on all the counts the second accused is standing trial,” he claimed.

The Judge Advocate Stevens said that what Lawyer Taylor has said will be determined by the court.
The defense counsel for the third accused, A. Koroma told the court that the third accused was not given the opportunity to explain certain things during the cause of his investigation. “So, this is the only reason why my client is taking the witness stand so that he will explain it.”

The Judge admonished the third accused that this is the only opportunity he has as defense witness. He told him to really explain what he knows about the case, cautioning him to be patient when giving his evidence in chief.

In his evidence in chief, the four defense witness, Abu Bakarr Jalloh told the court that he joined the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces on August 12, 1991. He testified that he was posted at JPGF as a security on March 10, 2008. He said that on June 9, 2011, the first accused called him and took him to his boss, now Lieutenant Colonel S. T. Sesay [Officer Commanding]. “Lieutenant Colonel Sesay asked me if I have any logistics certificate and I answered in the affirmative,” he said. “So, he [OC] told me to take over the RSLAF operational store as Camp Quarter Master Sergeant (CQMS) at the Presidential Lounge,” he said. “I took over the store but there was no formal handing over. I went to the first accused and he advised me to go to the store and take inventory of all the items in the presence of the Warrant Officer Class One, Abu Bakarr Suma.”

Defense counsel showed exhibit AC 1-3 [Inventory of the items] to him. He said that exhibit AC 1-2 is the inventory of items he met in the store.

He said that the inventory was only taken for operational purposes. “That is, personnel will take it and also bring it after the operational duties,” he said. “Apart from what I met in the store, I received ammunitions.”

He said that after the last day of firing exercise at Benguema in 2012, the Chief Instructor at JPGF, Staff Sergeant Dakowa [now late] by then Sergeant, came with 225 of 7.62× 23mm ball at the operational store. I receive 3000 of 7.62×54mm ball in 2012 from the first accused. The day before receiving this 3000 round, “I received four heavy machine guns from the first accused and he told me that he received it from the Joint Logistics Unit, Supply Services Squadron for operational purposes.”

He testified that in 2013, there was a firing exercise at Benguema and at the end of the exercise, Staff Sergeant Dakowa returned 200 rounds of 7.62×54mm ball after the exercise. He added that in 2014, he received 16 rounds of 9×18mm pestle from the first accused when he [first accused] was travelling to Canada to pursue a course, adding that he also receive 1172 rounds of 14.5mm AA in 2014 from Staff Sergeant Sesay [now deceased]. He testified that Sergeant Sesay got the ammunition from the mounted three barrel truck. “He [Sergeant Sesay] told me that he was taken the vehicle to the garage.”

“In the same 2014, I received 3519 rounds of 7.62×39mm ball from the former Vice President Lounge [Sam Sumana] among the guards was one Warrant Officer Class one Thomas Kargbo. He said that this was in relation to centralized all arms and ammunitions because one Semi Machine Gun was missing at the VP Lounge,” he said.

“Thereafter, the guards at former VP Lounge were collecting arms and ammunitions at JPGF when on duty and returning it after duty. This practice continues even during the tenure of VP Foe and so on. I recorded all of these in a form called AFG 10:33 and kept it in boxes but I don’t have the form again,” he said.

He explained that after the announcement of 2018 election results, the former president, Ernest Bai Koroma left the Lounge and went to live in his private house at Goderich. “I noticed that Brigadier A. Y. Kargbo came with Military Police and other personnel from Forces Intelligent Security Unity (FISU) to backload the presidential arms and ammunition store,” he said.

He testified that the former guards also returned their arms and ammunition, but they did not take it again, adding that within two or three days, the Lounge became empty. He said he explained this situation to the first accused. “I also told him that we should try to backload the arms and ammunitions in the operational store because it was only himself with two store men [Corporal Samuel King and Warrant Officer class two George Williams] and about two or three other general duty police officers at the Lounge.”

He said that after explaining the situation to the first accused, he [Captain Kamara] told him that he was negotiating for a vehicle to backload the arms and ammunitions, adding that after two to three days, the first accused came with a vehicle[one of the escort vehicles] for the back-loading. “But the vehicle was small. So, we were only able to take the arms and ammunitions for back-loading, leaving out the boxes containing documents, and old uniforms. “All the arms and ammunitions I was having in the presidential arms and ammunition store were back-loaded at 3rd Brigade at Wilberforce,” he testified.

“Whilst offloading the arms and ammunition, the first accused told him that he has received a call for the vehicle because it is going to be used by the current guards to attend a meeting between the former president and the current President Bio,” he said. “So, we were not able to return for the boxes and other items we left at the Presidential Lounge.”

The matter is adjourned to Tuesday May 21, 2019, for both the defense and prosecution counsels to submit their addresses.

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