The defence lawyers made the submission in reaction to an application by State Counsel Mam Jobe for amendments of the month and year in which the arraigned committed the alleged offences.
Mr Lamin Waa Juwara, former minister of Local Government, Lands and Traditional Rulers, Tamsir Onasis Konteh and Hamidou Jallow, former principal land and evaluation officer are being tried by state prosecutors on eight counts including neglect of official duty, making false documents uttering false documents and obtaining goods by false pretences, abuse of office, disobedience of statutory and lawful orders. They denied the charges.
When the case resumed yesterday for continuation of hearing, Ms Jobe, who led a team of state counsel, drew the attention of the court to the charge sheet in respect to count 8 of the previous charge in which it was stated “November 2011” instead of August 2012 which she said, needed to be amended.
“We therefore urged the court to grant our application and call upon the accused persons to take their plea in respect of the new amended charge,” she appealed.
In response, Mboge, counsel for Mr Juwara, and Sisohor, counsel for Jallow opposed the application and urged the court to reject it for being “unconstitutional, embarrassing and prejudicial” to the right of the accused persons to a fair hearing.
“The law governing the amendment of charges is very clear. Amendment of charges can be made before or after judgement by any of the parties except were the application is prejudicial to the accused persons, and the court should not allowed such an application. This case was filed 16 months ago and prosecution has called five witnesses. The application by the state should have been brought formally by way of a motion as this matter was filed since November 2012 and five prosecution witnesses have testified. The first prosecution witness, Samba Bah, testified in court that Mr Lamin Waa Juwara was not a minister at the time [and] is only being affected on count eight which is a minor offence and if such an application should be allowed by the court, it would be highly prejudicial to the right of the accused to a free and fair trial. So on that note, we urge the court to refuse this application for illegality and defectiveness as it is only intended to embarrass the accused persons especially Mr Juwara,” his counsel submitted.
Hearing resumes April 28 for continuation of hearing and reply on point of law by the state.
By Baba Sillah]]>