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City of Banjul
Sunday, September 20, 2020

Defense attorneys urge court to acquit Caliph Hydara

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Lawyers Lamin Mboge and Antouman Gaye who both addressed the court slammed the evidence of the prosecution and said it could not prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt. Sheikh Muhideen Hydara and alkalo Buyeh Touray are accused of conspiring among themselves to lawfully disobey the order of the president by refusing to perform Eidul-fitr on a state-sanctioned day last year. They deny any wrongdoing.

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In his summary argument, Mr Lamin Mboge maintained that the case before the court was a clear manifestation of abuse of power and authority, adding that the nexus of the evidence of the prosecution and the charge before the court were at a variance.

Mboge said the evidence given by prosecution’s first witness (chief of Foni Kansala) was so weak that the court should not rely on to convict the accused persons.

He added: “PW1 in his evidence stated that he received information from Dembo Bargie who also said he received information from the governor of West Coast Region, who also said the president said, ‘if anybody did not pray on July 28 last year, should not pray on the next day’. Your worship, but none of these persons were ever brought before this court to testify. PW1 further stated  in his evidence that he sent his badge messenger to Sangajor village to relay the information but no information was relayed to the alkalo and that shows that no message was conveyed to him.”

He said the chief of Foni Kansala (PW1) had also admitted that religion is a personal issue and that people pray on different days. Mboge added that the charges levelled against his clients were unconstitutional because they showed a sign of discrimination.

On the evidence of the badge messenger of the chief, he said: “The alkalo has been wrongfully arrested because the message from the chief through the badge messenger was not directed to the alkalo but instead to the Imam of the village, who was Maline Hydara which was not extended to him (the alkalo). So where did he (the alkalo) conspired and disobeyed the order that was not extended to him?”

The lawyer while describing the evidence of the third prosecution witness as ‘favourable’ to the accused persons said he was also ‘truthful’ because he made it clear that there was no compulsion in religion. 

On his part, Antouman Gaye maintained that the transcribed document brought before the court was an announcement from the Supreme Islamic Council and not from the Office of the President.

He said: “Were the announcement from the president, and what is the status of those who made that statement? They are religious leaders and apart from that they have no power or authority to make laws in the country or to arrest anyone. Now assuming without considering this announcement was from the president, the police have failed to seek legal advice before bringing this charge before the court.  The announcement was not a law that was disobeyed by my clients. Your worship, I submit that in order to constitute lawful order, it has to be enacted by the parliament, written laws of the country among others and only that can constitute a lawful order.”

The senior lawyer further argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to try the case because the elements of the offences were absent, adding that criminal law is all about certainty and ‘if there is no certainty, then there is no offence’. Gaye while urging the court to acquit and discharge the accused persons said Section 25 Sub-Section(C) of the constitution gives power to the accused persons to exercise and propagate their religious rights without any hindrances.

The matter was adjourned at that point to May 18 for prosecution to reply. 

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