(JollofNews) – A Gambian journalist who has been languishing in detention for over one year at the Mile Two Central Prisons yesterday regained his
Alhagie Jobe, deputy editor-in-chief of the pro-government newspaper, Daily Observer, has been in detention since his arrest by officers of the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in February 2013 for alleged possession of a fictitious Daily Observer article intended to help a Gambian man to secure asylum in the United Kingdom.
After his arrest, Jobe was taken to the NIA headquarters in Banjul where he was allegedly subjected to days of sever torture including beatings and cigarette burns.
A few days later, Mbye Bittaye, an employee of Africell was also arrested and detained by NIA officers.
After months of detention incommunicado, Jobe and Bittaye were on 14th May 2013 arraigned before Justice Emmanuel Nkea of the Special Criminal Court.
Jobe was charged with sedition, false information to a public servant and reckless and negligent acts while Bittaye was charged with making preparations to do an act with seditious intention.
The prosecution said sometime between the year 2012 and 2013 at Daily Observer, Jobe did an act with seditious intention to wit: published in a purported Daily Observer Newspaper of the 19th December 2012 a false story that ‘Major Lamin Touray was on the run from imminent re-arrest and detention and that he was charged in absentia for breach of office ethics and code by refusing to take orders in the executions of some people’.
They both rejected the charges and Jobe told the trial judge that his cautionary statement was dictated to him by NIA officers after hours of torture. Efforts by his defense to team for the court to reject the cautionary statements made at the NIA headquarters in the absence of a lawyer where however dismissed by the then trial, Emmanuel Nkea who also refused him bail.
By twist of fate, in February this year, Justice Nkea resigned from his post and abruptly left the Gambia. The case was then forwarded to Justice Emmanuel Amadi, who yesterday acquitted and discharged the two men of all charges.
In his judgement, the judge said although Jobe was found in possession of the newspaper article, the prosecution has failed to establish whether he was indeed the author of the said article.
“In any criminal trial, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution and the authorship of the alleged document is inconclusive, and the prosecution did not prove who authored the said article, or produced it,” Justice Amadi said.
He added: “This crucial fact was not proven, as required by the law even though the document was recovered from Jobe at the time of his arrest.”
Justice Amadi further added that the charge of false information against Jobe was vague and not specific and the prosecution has failed to produce any evidence of consequence to prove the essential elements of the offense.
The judge further dismissed the charge of reckless driving against Jobe and accepted his version of the story that he was forced drive his car on the pedestrian area by NIA officers who were trying to arrest him.
Justice Amadi added that he has carefully and thoroughly gone through the evidence against the two men and was satisfied that the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. He therefore acquitted and discharged them to the relief of their family members and friends.