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Court of Appeal rejects Banja’s bail appeal

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By Binta A Bah

The Gambia Court of Appeal has refused the application of the jailed former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries, Dr Bamba Banja, to be released on bail pending the final determination of appeal against his conviction.

Banja stated in his appeal for bail that he will suffer serious medical harm if his bail application is refused given his state of ill health.

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However, Justice HC Roche, one of the panel of three judges who delivered the ruling said no reasonable tribunal will grant bail to Banja as he did not provide sufficient proof of his alleged ill-health to show he is indeed hypertensive or afflicted with  type 1 diabetes.

She contended that bail cannot be granted on the basis of a mere medical prescription which Dr Banja provided in his appeal as evidence and that the lack of a medical report from a health professional impacted the credibility of the appeal for bail. She therefore refused him bail.

“At this time, the application for bail is short of evidence required by law to tilt the scales of justice in his favour. If the applicant truly believes that the judgement of the trial court is erroneous, that he is not guilty as convicted and deserves his freedom within the shortest possible time, then he must pursue the record of the trial court expeditiously and vigorously for that will be the key to his freedom,” the judge outlined.

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Nonetheless, the court made specific orders for the state to ensure that Dr Banja’a life and health would not be unreasonably and incautiously put at risk pending the determination of his appeal.

One of the court’s orders is that the prison authorities at the Mile 2 Central Prisons should ensure that medical attention and treatment are provided to Dr Banja and be allowed access to a medical doctor of his choice for diagnosis and treatment.

The court also ordered prison authorities to allow Dr Banja to access his prescription drugs and special diet prescribed by a medical doctor of his choice pending the determination of his appeal.

The last order is for Banja’s lawyer to pursue his client’s medical doctor to prepare the necessary medical report and prescription to enable the prison authorities comply with the orders of the court.

The ruling was support by the other two judges, NS Wadda and Basirou Mahoney.

Banja was sentenced in March to a two-year mandatory jail term for accepting a D100,000 bribe from a Chinese private company in September 2018. He was also fined D1 million for causing economic loss to The Gambia government.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the high court, Dr Banja appealed at the Court of Appeal.

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