Sierra Leone News: Court Martial: Defense Opens Case

By Stephen V. Lansana

Following the closure of State prosecutor’s case, the three defense counsel, D. Taylor, A. Macaulay and A. Koroma on Tuesday March 26, 2019, opened their case at the ongoing court martial trial of three former presidential guards in Freetown.

The ongoing court martial is presided by the Judge Advocate Alhaji Momoh-Jah Stevens and the Court Martial Board: Lieutenant Colonel Kerifa Kamara as President of court martial board; Lieutenant Colonel A. B. Keita; Major Victor Momoh; Major Brima Ngavuwa Sama; and Major Sallieu Kallon at the military headquarters, Cockerill in Freetown.

The court martial is constituted in Freetown to hear a case of three soldiers: Captain Patrick E. Kamara, 1st accused; Samuel Conteh, Warrant Officer Class 1, 2nd accused; and Abu Bakarr Jalloh, Warrant Officer Class 2, 3rd accused. They are accused of willfully damaging service property; conspired to steal ammunition; and involved in a conduct prejudicial to the group order and military discipline.

In proving its case, the prosecution initially called 17 witnesses but they later called three more witnesses as the trial progresses. It is the principle of law that it is the prosecution that will prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt. Prior to the closing of the case after 11 court martial hearings, the prosecutors led 20 witnesses and tendered about 15 exhibits to prove the case against the accused persons. The witnesses comprise senior officers from both military and Police including two civilians. The evidential burden is on the prosecution and the standard of prove is 100 percent. The Judge Advocate and the Court Martial Board will not be in any doubt.

After the closure of the prosecutor’s case, the floor is now open for the defense to challenge each of the elements relating to the five charges of which the accused are standing trial. In this period, the accused will move into the witness stand as defense witness to testify.

Making his position of how he will be defending the case, defense counsel for the first accused, Lawyer Ady Macaulay said that the accused will take the witness stand and will be calling additional two witnesses.

The defense for the third accused, A. Koroma said that he will intend to put the accused in the witness stand to testify, but he will not be calling any other witness.

The defense for the second accused, Drucil Taylor promised to talk with his client and then inform the court on how he will defend the case.

Defense counsel for the first accused, Ady Macaulay evoked section 59(3) of the court martial roles and regulations of 2003 which allows the defense to make brief statement before opening his case.

In his address, Lawyer Macaulay said, “I will say to you today through the evidence and testimonies of the prosecution witnesses that the first accused is not guilty of the case.”

“In the opening of the case, the prosecution built it case base on circumstantial evidences,” he added, “The structure that is built on circumstantial evidence is bound to collapse.”

Speaking on the offenses, he said that the first accused is charged with five offenses comprising commit a civil offense contrary to law; conspiracy to steal public property; larceny; willful damage of state property; among others. “For conspiracy, he said, “It means that two or more people come together to do something.”

He added that the conspiracy is that they stole ammunition belonging to the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, adding that all what they should have said is that the accused could not give proper account for the ammunition. He stated that the prosecution’s case was based on speculations.

He said that for willful damage, the element there is to prove that the ammunitions are State property, adding that the witnesses were not able to differentiate the ammunitions based on serial numbers. He said that according to evidences tendered, Anti-Aircraft and RPG rounds, among others, were missing “but why does the first accused did not dump all of them into the pit”?

“These are critical issues that prove that the accused cannot be charged for willful damage. Besides, the witnesses admitted that there were no serial marks on the AA rounds. All they said was the type. The brand was not proven with certainty. Even the ammunition technician could not establish it,” Lawyer Macaulay claimed. “The ammunition technician came here to give his expert view base on what people told him.”

After Lawyer Macaulay’s address, the defense witness (DW1) Captain Patrick Edwin Kamara went to the witness stand to testify.

He testified that he is presently in custody at the Force Provost Unit at Murray Town in Freetown. He was attached at the Joint Presidential Guard Force (JPGF) between January 2009 to April 2018. He said during his time at JPGF, he left his deployment to travel to Canada to study between 2010 to 2011, to Kenya from June to July in 2014, and Egypt from January to March 2016.

To show details of his travelling, he said, “My two passports are currently with detective superintendent M. K. Alie which will show my travelling details.

He stated that he was attached at Third Infantry Battalion in Yile from July 2005 to January 2006.

He testified that apart from this court martial trial, he has no disciplinary record in the RSLAF.

The testimony was deferred to nest week Tuesday so that the defense counsel will tender footages on test firing as exhibit which will show how the AA rounds were expended.

Lawyer Macaulay made an application for the police to bring the two passport of the first accused, so that he will tender them as exhibits. He also made an application for the audio visual production and still pictures on test firing to be played in court.

The Judge Advocate granted the two applications.