By Omar Bah
& Momodou Torp
The Kanifing Magistrates’ Court yesterday transferred the case of popular rapper Killa Ace and 36 others to the special criminal division of the High Court in Banjul after the lower court said it does not have the jurisdiction to try charges such as arson and willful damage.
The 37 youths, currently remanded at Mile 2 are expected to remain in custody until 1 October when the High Court resumes session.
They face up to 8 charges including willful damage, riot and arson. Their arrest and charges are related to the protest which erupted in Serekunda on 24 July against the death of one Ousman Darboe, a Sierra Leonean.
Mr Darboe’s friends claimed he was tortured resulting in his death.
The youths are yet to take a plea.
Meanwhile, the court ordered for the accused persons to be granted visits by relatives and medical treatment if they require.
There was an angry reaction to the decision of the court with dozens of young people chanting “Gambia is sliding back to dictatorship under Barrow.”
Angry women whose sons and brothers were among the detainees, also chanted “Barrow must step down.”
Alieu Bah, an activist who was at the Magistrates’ Court to show solidarity with the 37 youths, said: “We reject another dictatorship in this country; we reject the criminalization of youthful existence in this country and we reject Barrow hijacking The Gambia as his private entity.”
Bah said the young people of this country must stand up for what is right. “We will stage a national protest and we will not go for a permit because this government has become an illegal and immoral state that has failed her words before the Gambian people,” he charged.
Lawyer Martin, one of the defense counsels, said: “Charges that can lead to life sentences as well as refusing them bail would always compound the problem in our current situation,” he said.
He advised the prosecution to review the charges because they are not helping, saying that “if 37 young men are remanded in this situation it would not tell well.”
“For us as lawyers, we would always answer to calls to provide services to any accused person or any suspect of a crime but as far as we are concerned, the charges are not helping in the current situation,” he added.
He went on: “We know that things happen but we don’t see any evidence yet, and there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty; so we are calling on the prosecution to review the charges.
We are also looking at the ruling of the court currently and as lawyers, we would come as a team to see that something is done regarding the ruling of the magistrates’ court and we will appeal it if the need arises,” he noted.