By Baba Sillah
Dawda Ndure, an Intelligence officer testifying as the first prosecution witness in the Solo Sandeng murder trial involing nine former NIA officials, made shocking revelations before a High Court in Banjul yesterday.
Testifying before a crowded courtroom, Ndure identified himself as an Intelligence officer attached to the Counter Intelligence Unit of the NIA and added that he knows all the accused persons as colleagues.
He revealed that he was responsible for obtaining background information from detainees and it was in April last year that information came to their office asking them to stay to obtain background information from certain people.
The witness recalled that later four people were brought into his office, alleged to be Opposition UDP protesters. ”Later, Louie Gomez, the 2nd accused, Saihou Omar Jeng the 3rd accused and Tamba Mansary the 7th accused turned up with Solo Sandeng and Nogoi Njie. I was asked by my director to obtain background information of Solo Sandeng and Nogoi Njie,” the witness said.
He added that Solo Sandeng and Nogoi Njie were brought to the Counter Intelligence Unit by James Gomez and Tamba Mansary but when Solo wanted to sit in a chair, he was ordered by Saihou Omar Jeng to sit on the floor instead before they all left together.
The witness further recalled that Solo Sandeng was brought again and he started to question him during which Solo Sandeng told him that the protest was not for a change of government but rather to send a message to the IEC.
After obtaining background information from Mr Sandeng, the witness said he signed the document and Solo was taken away by Tamba Mansary and his crew called the Special Operation Unit boys.
“Later Nogoi Njie was brought by James Gomez for questioning and a similar procedure was done before she too was taken by the Special Operation Unit boys together with Tamba Mansary,” he said.
The witness further said it took them one hour to make a final report, a copy of which was printed and given to Sheriff Gassama who took the report to Saihou Omar Jeng.
“I was walking in the premises of the office when I saw Solo Sandeng again, this time on a mattress covered with a bed sheet up to his neck with blood and I sat for sometime to look at him but I felt emotional and left,” the witness told the court.
He further adduced that at that point he informed Saihou Omar Jeng that he wanted to go home but Mr Jeng asked him to wait as a vehicle was coming and shortly after a vehicle came with Lamin Lang Sanyang, the 9th accused. “I then heard Mr Jeng telling the boys that they have lost one of their detainees before ordering them to collect a spade from the newly constructed NIA building,” the witness said.
He continued: “I told Mr Jeng I have to go home now but he told me to join the vehicle to Tanji to dig the grave. And upon arrival at the NIA complex in Tanji the driver horned but there was no response and one of the boys jumped over the fence to open the gate and the vehicle entered. I went to the back yard of the complex while the boys dig the grave. After performing my prayers, I followed Mr Jeng and his crew including Haruna Susso, the 6th accused, to see what the boys were doing. Later, a Pick-Up carrying the body of Solo Sandeng drove up to the grave and on board were Tamba Mansary, the 7th accused and Baboucarr Sallah, the 4th accused but I could not remember the rest of the boys. When the body of Solo Sandeg arrived at the graveyard, Mr Jeng asked the boys to remove it from the vehicle.
The body was covered with a bloodstain bed sheet with which it was buried”.
The witness concluded that after the burial Mr Jeng asked the driver to drop him at his home in Tujereng. Asked by the deputy director of public prosecution, MB Abubacarr why he was emotional when he saw Solo Sandeng on a mattress with blood but before he could answer the question, the lead defence counsel CE Mene raised objection on the grounds that the question was not relevant to the case and urged the court to reject that piece of question. However the state deputy chief prosecutor argued that the question was a follow-up citing Section 3 of the Evidence Act to back his contention and urged the court to allow the witness to answer the question but the question was rejected.
Under cross-examination by Moses Richard Johnson, counsel for Sheikh Omar Jeng, the witness admitted to witnessing everything that has transpired in Tanji but denied being part of the operation.
He also admitted that he was cautioned during investigation into the matter but he however denied being charged.
When put to him that he has been carrying out executive directive from the then president that was why he never tried to find out what happened when he found Solo Sandeng on the mattress with blood, the witness denied such allegation but admitted that his office used to receive executive directives from the State House as the office was directly under the Office of the President.
Hearing resumes today.