By Amadou Jadama
Principal Magistrate Isatou Dabo of the Brikama court yesterday discharged 22 accused persons charged with the burning of the Sanyang police station and transferred the case to the High Court in Banjul.
Her decision came after both the police prosecutors and the defense made an argument on the application for the case to be transferred to the High Court as well as whether or not to grant bail.
In her ruling yesterday in a packed courtroom, Principal Magistrate Dabo pointed out that the practice of mentioning cases at magistrates’ court and applying for transfer to the High Court on the basis of lack of jurisdiction seems to be a ploy by the prosecution to legitimize detention of accused persons, pending such time they are ready to file a fresh indictment at the High Court.
“The court cannot be used to legitimise what is unjust procedurally especially where it is certain the procedures to be followed before an indictment is filed is one that does not happen overnight. Even where the court decided to grant bail, the High Court will not be bound by such bail conditions upon arraignment of the accused persons. This leaves a deadlock of processes adopted by this court under these circumstances,” she said.
“I have averted my mind to the nature and gravity of the charges especially count 2 and 4 which both carry a term of imprisonment for life. It is important to state that the magistrate’s court is a court of summary jurisdiction and I do not consider an offence attracting such grave punishment suitable for summary trial. Same may be prejudicial to the accused persons.”
“On the basis stated, I hereby discharge all 22 accused persons and order that the case be transferred to the Special Criminal Division of the High Court,” she concluded.
The 22 accused persons were arraigned on Tuesday before the said court on four counts ranging from conspiracy to commit a felony, arson, unlawful assembly, and rioters demolishing structures. However, they all denied the charges.