By Janet A. Sesay
Lead defence counsel, Wara Serry Kamal has challenged the jurisdiction of a magistrate court in Freetown saying it lacks power to try the 13 accused persons arrested in the North-eastern headquarters of Makeni following the riots in July this year.
The court in question is presided over by Magistrate Mark Ngegba of Pa Demba Road Court.
“The Court in Freetown does not have jurisdiction to try the accused persons in court,” she submitted.
The challenge to the court’s powers came after state the prosecutor, Yusuf Sesay told the court that he had no witness to testify during yesterday’s proceedings.
The lead defence also submitted that the state had no case against the accused persons since a Court of equal and competent jurisdiction is in Makeni.
Counsel Kamal also drew the court’s attention to failure of the state to exhibit any court order to try the matter in Freetown.
State Prosecutor found it difficult on that day to respond to Counsel Kamal’s submissions and sought an adjournment date.
Counsel Yusif Sesay hoped to respond to the submissions on the next date. “I am only coming into the matter now. I would like to look at the offence and start the matter on the adjourned date,” he told the court.
Since no witness appeared to testify on that day, Counsel Kamal applied for bail for the accused persons.
But, bail application was turned down by the presiding Magistrate.
The thirteen accused persons include: Amadu Koroma alias Kondoe, Idrissa Koroma, Joseph Yusif Bangura and others Ibrahim Sesay, Baimba Bangura, Mohamed Conteh, Saidu Kpanabom Kargbo, Joseph Kanu, Mohamed Kargbo and others.
They are answering to a seven-count indictment of conspiracy to commit a felony, carrying offensive weapons without lawful authority disorderly behaviour, riotous conduct, throwing missiles and malicious damage.
The charge sheet indicates that the accused on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th July this year in the Bombali judicial district conspired with other person’s unknown to commit a felony.
It is also alleged that the accused persons maliciously damaged the Sierra Leone People’s Party Regional Office in Makeni valued Le39M.
The accused persons also allegedly maliciously damaged the Electricity Generation Transmission Company (EGTC) property valued at Le10M.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The riots in respect of which the accused persons occurred when a 1.65 KVA thermal plant was relocated from Makeni to the North-western town of Lungi which hosts the country’s only international airport.
The relocation of the electricity machine was in preparedness of the reopening of the airport to commercial flights.
The riots left six people dead when police and military responded in their usual heavy-handedness.
No security personnel has been brought in for the brutal killings.
However, trial of the accused persons continues and threats to arrest more are common.
The matter comes up on the 21st August.