By Baba Sillah
Ebrima Jammeh and his son Omar Jammeh yesterday walked out of the Mile 2 Prisons, their home for the last 7 years, after a High Court judge acquitted and discharged them on charges of arson and murder, because state prosecutors could not establish essential elements of the allegation as charged.
The suspects were alleged to have unlawfully caused the death of Fatou Badjie by willfully and unlawfully setting fire on her that burnt her to death seven years ago.
The bill of indictment furnished by state prosecutor AM Yusuf revealed that the incident happened on October 4, 2010 at Bundung Borehole. The suspects however denied any wrongdoing throughout the six years of legal battle.
In order to bill a prima facie case, the state called nine witnesses and tendered host of exhibits.
“As a general rule the onus in criminal cases is on the prosecution to prove the case against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubts.
To prove count one which charges the accused persons with arson, the prosecution needs to establish that: There was a fire in the building or structure whatever, that the fire was caused by the accused persons, and that the accused caused the fire willfully and unlawfully; to successfully prove count two which charges the accused persons with murder, the prosecution needs to establish by credible evidence that, the victim is dead, that the death of the victim is as a result of the unlawful act or omission of the caused, and that act or omission of the accused which caused the death of the deceased was with malice aforethought,” Justice Abi ruled.
According to the trial judge, it is his considered opinion that the declaration made by the deceased to the accused persons at different intervals amount to a dying declaration and it is therefore his view that the fire was caused by a gas explosion as narrated by Fatou Badjie herself before she passed on.
In the circumstances, the judge ruled further, the fire cannot be attributed to the act of the accused persons and therefore he found out that the first element to be proved is not proved beyond reasonable doubt in this case.
Justice Abi finally ruled that the prosecution has woefully failed to establish the essential elements on charges of arson and murder as charged and therefore accordingly acquitted and discharged the accused persons on both counts of arson and murder. Justice Simone Abi however reminded the parties of their right to appeal to the Court of Appeal after handing down his judgment which lasted for an hour.