By Halimatou Ceesay
The High Court of the Gambia presided over by Justice Jaiteh, yesterday 12th June, 2018 denied bail to eight officials of the Defunct National Intelligence Agency (NIA) now called State Intelligence Services (SIS).
The applicants are Quasy Mendy, Leon Gomez and six other accused persons who were all officials of the NIA.
Delivering his ruling before a crowded courtroom, Counsel Justice Jaiteh said the applicant counsel S.K Jobe filed an application for bail on 17th May, 2017 praying for the release of the applicants from custody and any further order the court may deem fit.
He said Counsel Jobe filed a 25 paragraph affidavit sworn to by one Lamin Darboe with the charge sheet from the Banjul Magistrate Court attached to it.
Justice Jaiteh said in response to that affidavit, the state file an affidavit in opposition with a bill of indictment file against the accused persons at the High Court of the Gambia attached to it.
He said the applicant’s counsel S.K Jobe argued that since the arrest and detention of the accused persons till date is more the constitutional requirement of 72hours. Counsel Jobe said since the state/respondent fails or refuse to file a bill of indictment against the accused persons, they should be released from custody until such a time that the state is ready to proceed with the case. Counsel rely on section 19 (1) and (4) of the constitution.
Justice Jaiteh stated that Counsel Jobe said bail is at the discretion of the court and that discretion should be exercise judiciously. He said every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
However he said the state/respondent base their application on section 202 of the Criminal Procedure Code and raising two questions; whether the applicants are entitle to bail or the court has power to grant the applicants bail.
“In granting bail certain criteria’s need to be looked into such whether the offence is bail able and the severity of the offence alleged,” explained Justice Jaiteh. He said the state said that according to the charge the offence is grave which is accessory to Murder. He said the state further stated that under section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code the accused persons are not entitle to bail.
“I have carefully read the affidavits from both state and applicant side and the law are clear on whether or not to grant bail. This include whether or not the accused person are first offender, severity of the punishment, whether the accused will jump bail and the likelihood of the offence being repeated,” he said.
He added that bail can only be granted to a person whose offence is not punishable by death or life imprisonment. He further stated that the offence alleged against the accused persons in this case which is accessory to the facts of murder is punishable by life imprisonment.
On whether he can exercise his discretion and grant bail to the applicants, justice Jaiteh said the presumption of innocence is not absolute and qualified. He said the interest of the accused persons should be weighed and balance against presumption of innocence.
“It is my view that the applicant has not established exceptional circumstances for the court to exercise its discretion and grant them bail. Having regard to the severity of the punishment, the applicant shall not be admitted to bail. The application is hereby dismissed,” he said.
S.K Jobe represented the applicants whilst Counsel A. Bah appeared for the state/respondent.