By Sulayman Waan
Madi Jobarteh, a human rights activist has called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Minister of Justice and Attorney General to withdraw charges against Ali Cham alias Killa Ace and other 35 youth who are standing trial over unlawful assembly.
Mr. Jobarteh was speaking in press conference organized by a group of Gambian youth called Gom Sa Bopa; held at Tango, Fajara on Monday September 2.
He added: “Since the July 24 protests in SerreKunda we did not see neither the Police nor the Ministry of Interior issue any public statement that they will conduct an investigation into the burning down of Officer Gorgui Mboob’s house. Hence how come the Police went ahead to arrest a group of youths for that case when no such investigation was conducted to the knowledge of the general public?”
He said the Interior Ministry did announce that they will investigate neither the death of late Ousman Darboe, but Gambians are yet to see neither any investigation report nor any arrests for that incident.
“We saw the IGP took the arrested youths before a magistrate’s court for a crime that carries life imprisonment, i.e. arson which is a crime that is tri-able only at the High Court. Therefore, I demand that the IGP explain why this matter was taken before a magistrate’s court which has no jurisdiction whatsoever to try such a crime! Indeed, by taking this matter before such a court means a direct violation of the rights of these youths.
“For that matter the Chief Justice must act to review the remand order of the magistrate who by all indication did not take the plea of the accused persons that she did not have jurisdiction,” he said.
He added that the Chief Justice, as a superior judge has supervisory powers over lower courts, noting the Chief Justice should have ordered the magistrate to vary her order to free these youths on bail until the matter is mentioned in the proper court.
“The Chief Justice could have also changed the decision by himself or ask any High Court judge to do so. Therefore, why has the Chief Justice failed to do so?” he asked.
Notwithstanding Mr. Jobarteh said he totally and unreservedly condemn acts of arson, riot, vandalism, looting and indeed any acts of violence in expressing their grievances.
Jobarteh also a human right activist said he got information that some of the arrested youth were never present when Gorgui Mboob’s house and Bakoteh police station were vandalized while called on government to conduct a proper investigation to ensure no person is punished unjustly.
Mr. Jobarteh said there is sufficient evidence that Killa ACE was neither present at Mboob’s house nor at Bakoteh Police Station during the protest, saying many Killa’s videos attest to that fact.
“All that we saw was his vocal stance for accountability for police brutality and the protection of human rights. Therefore, how comes he is charged with such a capital offence as arson?’ he inquired.
He said the Serekunda protest was spontaneous action triggered by the late Darboe for being allegedly tortured by the Anti-Crime Unit, adding it is utterly surprising to see the police arrested only 36 youths and charge them with unlawful assembly as if these were the only youths who took part in that protest, while asked why only 36 people were arrested of the all protesters.