Fatou Jaw Manneh guilty
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Principal Magistrate Buba Jawo of the Kanifing Magistrates Court has convicted and sentenced Ms Fatou Jaw Manneh to a fine of D250,000 or in default serve a four-year jail term with hard labour.
Ms Manneh was found guilty on four counts of seditious intention, publication of seditious words, publication of false news with intent to cause fear or alarm, and uttering seditious words, which are all contrary to the laws of The Gambia.
The charges were brought against her in 2007 following her arrest at the Banjul International Airport, upon her return from the US, where she has been living for the past several years.
According to him, the first witness, an NIA officer, told the court that the accused was invited to their office in connection to the posting of the information on the internet.
Jawo further told the court that the said documents were later tendered in court and marked as exhibits, adding that PW1 even told the court that he read the said article on Freedom, an online Gambian newspaper based in the United States.
“PW1 told the court that the articles were posted online and many people would have read it since the internet is universal. PW1 further adduced to the court that President Jammeh is development oriented and even Gambians would attest to that fact,” he reminded the crowded court.
Further reading the evidence, Magistrate Jawo revealed that the second prosecution witness was Basiru Gassama, who said the current administration of President Jammeh has been working relentlessly on all fronts of national development.
According to PW2, from 1994 to date, many development initiatives have been undertaken by President Jammeh’s government, citing education, the road network and health, as examples.
“PW3, an intelligence officer at the NIA also told the court that on 28th March, 2007, he was assigned to investigate the accused as he had information that she would be arriving in the country from the US,” Jawo said.
According to Buba Jawo, PW3 told the court that the accused did write an article about The Gambia while she was living in the US.
“At the closure of the prosecution’s case, the defence counsel intimated that the accused wouldl not give a testimony, but would instead write a written address to the court on the point of law,” he said.
Magistrate Jawo further narrated that PW1 and PW3 in their evidence, told the court that the accused printed the said articles herself at their administration office and also confirmed that complaints concerning the articles were lodged at their office, but did not disclose the identity of the informant. “The prosecution witness told the court that the contents of the articles were not true,” the magistrate added.
He then delivered his judgement: “The prosecution has proven its case beyond reasonable doubt on all the four counts and the accused is found guilty of the offences she has been charged with.”
Plea for mitigation
“Your worship, I want you to consider her. She has two children who are being taken cared of by her. She is a banker and of course a student pursuing a graduate course. She has lost almost two academic years as a result of this case,” said the defence counsel.
The defence reminded the court that his client is a first time offender and has been law abiding since then, observing that imposing such sentences may affect her and her children. He referred the court to various sections under the Criminal Procedure Code, Laws of The Gambia.
In his reaction, the presiding magistrate told the court that even though he has heard the defence application, the accused knew that she had committed a punishable offence, noting that “she cannot be in the United States writing anything that she feels like just to tarnish the image of a democratic government”.
He quoted numerous authorities in law to uphold the judgment that the accused committed a punishable offence.
As we went to press last night, the Daily Observer was reliably informed that the accused has paid the fine of D250,000, with the Gambia Press Union pitching in D140,000 and the remaining balance shouldered by the family.
Author: by Sheriff Janko & Musa Ndow