As Gambian opposition leader Ousainou Darboe and 19 other co-accused persons continue to stand trial in the absence of legal representation, calls are mounting from various quarters denouncing ‘a blatant abuse of due process.’
“There should not have been a trial. The United Democratic Party (UDP) leader and other accused persons were just exercising a constitutional right. This is a miscarriage of justice,” the Secretary General of the Dakar-based RADDHO Aboubacry Mbodji told this reporter.
Last April, the UDP leader took to the streets of Serrekunda in protest of a brutal police crackdown that has left youth activist Solo Sandeng dead and dozens of party supporters jailed. They were arrested, remanded at Mile 2 prisons before being slapped with charges including ‘conspiracy to commit felony.’ On June 8, the entire defense walked out of the courtroom in Banjul after the trial was reportedly marred with abuses of due process.
Aboubacry Mbodji said legal representation brings fairness in court proceedings. “We are heading towards a predetermined outcome for the trial,” he stated.
Gambian activist lawyer Assan Martin, who spoke to this reporter, threw his weight behind the defense team for deciding not to legitimize what he termed as a ‘parody of justice’.
He said the move taken by the authorities to transfer the trial of fourteen protesters to Mansakonko high court did not follow a legal process.
“This is almost 300 km away from where they have been arrested. What is going on is a politically motivated trial,” lawyer Martin deplored.
Halifa Sallah of the opposition Peoples Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) warned against a possible mockery of justice.
“The State should be advised to ease frustrations by rolling back impunity and discharge and release all those linked to the incidents associated with Sandeng,” he said in an open letter addressed this week to the country’s Justice Minister.
Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP) leader Omar Amadou Jallow said the UDP supporters arrested and dragged to court were exercising their rights.
Omar Amadou Jallow said the Gambian leader has no right to put them in prison, neither to continue tormenting them courts. “He (Yahya Jammeh) should even apologize to them!”, he voiced out.
Written by Abdoulie JOHN