Gambia: Who is fooling who?

Demba Jawo

Demba Jawo

While most people no doubt appreciate President Jammeh’s gesture to “pardon” some prisoners as part of the celebrations marking the end of Ramadan, unlike the last time when he had to executive nine prisoners, but there are some questions being asked as to whether indeed some of the prisoners involved were pardoned or they were already due for release.
If we go by the Daily Observer of 17th April 2008, which reported a court case presided over by Kayode Olajubutu of the Banjul Magistrates Court, which sentenced two of the “pardoned” Senegalese; Sidat Jarju and Ebrima Colley to five years imprisonment on 16th April, 2008, then we would not fail to see that they were indeed over-due for release rather than being pardoned.
Therefore, it was either that President Jammeh was never told the truth about the status of the prisoners he was “pardoning” and therefore, he believed that he was indeed exercising his prerogative of mercy, or this was yet another of the regime’s tactics to achieve undeserved popularity and praise.
Below is the full story as reported by the Daily Observer which seems to contradict the impression given by the press release dated 12th August 12013 from the Office of the President which announced that President Jammeh had “exercised his prerogative of mercy” to grant pardon to 19 prisoners, including Jarju and Colley.

MFDC 9 Jailed
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Senior Magistrate Kayode Olajubutu of the Banjul Magistrates court, yesterday, April 16th 2008, convicted and sentenced 9 MFDC rebels on different charges preferred against them, ranging from one to five years.

Before handing down the sentences on the 9 MFDC rebels, senior Magistrate Olajubutu had listened patiently and carefully to the plea of mitigations made by the accused persons, who had been in detention for more than a year, while the police were on their investigations.

According to the senior magistrate, he made reference to the almost 7 months litigation which was characterized by receiving evidences from both the prosecution witnesses and the accused persons. According to him, the prosecution has proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt against the accused persons.

The first to be sentenced by senior magistrate Olajubutu were Sidat Jarju and Ebrima Colley, who bagged five-year jail terms without any option of fine on all the 6 counts preferred against them.

Nuha Jammeh who was also labeled a notorious member of the MFDC rebels got a jail term of four years without any option of fine.

The remaining 6 accused persons were sentenced to various terms; Lamin Teww Sambou got three years, Ansumana Jarju and Tamsir Badjie got two years 6 months without any option of a fine.

Jospeph Jatta, Abdou Salam Jammeh and Wuyei Jarju were sentenced to two years, five years and 6 months, and one year respectively.

Magistrate Kayode Olajubutu ordered the exhibits tendered in court to be forfeited to the state, except the bag of charms, which he asked to be returned to the owner as it has no official value.

It could be recalled that the 9 MFDC rebels had been charged with 8 counts of terrorism and other illegal activities in The Gambia.

This reminds us of the recent case in Morocco when King Mohammed pardoned a Spanish paedophile only to rescind the decision after an outcry and when he realized that he was misled into granting pardon to the paedophile by the prison authorities and he had to fire the prison director.
Let’s also hope that President Jammeh will not just brush aside this serious blunder of announcing the pardon of prisoners who had already served their sentences and were indeed over-due for release. This not only makes a mockery of our penal system, but it also seriously compromises the fairness of our justice system when it will take a “pardon” by the president to release people who had already served their sentences. It clearly shows that either the prison authorities are not doing their work with diligence or they have no regard for the rule of law.

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