By Omar Bah
Gambian rapper and activist, Ali Cham alias Killa Ace and thirty-six others were yesterday charged at the Kanifing Magistrate Court over their alleged involvement in a July protest that turned to riots over the death of a Sierra Leonean national.
The 37 protesters were charged with arson, unlawful assembly, and willful damage of properties and prohibition of conduct conducive to breach of peace.
They were arraigned before Magistrate Elizabeth Donn who subsequently denied them bail and ordered them to be reminded at Mile 2 prisons.
Killa Ace was initially arrested on August 17, with at least 36 others and detained for at least two nights. Though he was not charged initially, he was ordered to report to the police daily.
They were reportedly arrested at different police stations as they arrive on their normal bail reporting.
Supt. Lawyer Mballow, representing the Inspector General of Police, told the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court that arson is a capital offense. He further argued that since capital offenses attract life-imprisonment, the case be transferred to the Special Division of the high court.
But in his preliminary objection, one of the lawyers representing 36 out of the 37 individuals, Lawyer Gomez, prayed the court to strike out the counts of arson and demolishing a building from the charge sheet instead of transferring the case to the high court.
The defense counsel said the issue of the transfer of the matter to high court is not mandatory but discretional.
The defense lawyer further argued that it was a deliberate act on the part of the police to include arson and other counts on the charge sheet so as to cause a long detention of the suspects.
The matter was adjourned Monday 2 September for reply on some of the issues raised.
The July protest which started as a peaceful protest to seek justice for the death of Ousman Darboe, descended into riots when angry protesters who accused the police anti-crime unit of having a hand in the death, blocked busy Senegambia-Turn Table highway and hurled bottles, stones and other objects at police.