By Janet A. Sesay
As summary trial commences on the Makeni riot, PW3, Detective Police Constable 13585 Lewis Paul, attached to the Rogbaneh Police Station, Makeni, yesterday testified before Magistrate Mark Ngebah of Pademba Road Court No. 2. He explained how his team was manhandled during the alleged riot on the 18th July, 2020 in Makeni.
Led in evidence by state counsel Yusuf Sesay, the witness recognised the 3rd accused, Thaimu Kamara, the 5th accused, Ibrahim Conteh and the 10th accused, Mohamed Conteh.
He said that, on the 18th of July 2020, he was on duty at 09:30am when the operational support department, headed by Assistant Superintendent of Police Anthony Deiah, formed three patrol teams comprising of police and military personnel in separate vehicles. This was in respect of the riotous incident, which started on Friday night 17th July 2020 in Makeni. He said there were several distress calls from residents.
The witness further explained that he was part of the team on board SLP 170 that embarked on patrolling within the Municipality of Makeni. He said, on arrival at Campbell Street, they discovered that the road leading to Holy Spirit Hospital was blocked with logs, stones, market tables, spikes, boards with nails and burning tyres.
The witness stated that they also discovered a large number of youths carrying machetes, sticks and stones. He said his team got stuck on the road because the road was blocked.
“At that moment the youths started throwing missiles at us,” he told the court.
He said, as the situation became worse, the operational commander instructed them to release teargas canisters to disperse the crowd. He said during the release of the teargas canisters, he was able to arrest the third accused.
Explaining further, in his examination in chief, the witness said his team collected three abandoned machetes, five boards with nails attached on them and two sticks. The witness said they moved towards Watson Street where they also noticed that the road was blocked. However he was able to arrest the 5th accused.
In continuation, the witness said, as they proceeded along Kabala road, they arrested the 10th accused and later they arrested a total of ten people. He said the abandoned missiles were handed over to the exhibit clerk, Detective Police Sergeant 9655 Timbo Hamid, for safe keeping and the suspects were handed over to the Regional Officer, John Kargbo, for further investigation.
Testing the evidence, in cross examination by lead defence counsel, Wara Serry Kamal, the witness said that he is a native of Makeni City.
In another question put to him, he denied having knowledge that the incident emanated as a result of the removal of the generator from Makeni power house to Lungi. The witness further stated he had no idea that it was a riot.
The witness confirmed that he did not see the accused mounting the road block, adding that, as tension rose, the appropriate authorities issued a curfew order at around ten that morning
At the end of the cross examination, another defence counsel, Ibrahim Sourie, applied for bail on behalf of the accused. He submitted that the law also guarantees the right to freedom to all persons.
Lawyer I. Sourie further submitted that if his clients were tried and proved innocent of the alleged crime, they have nowhere to seek compensation.
“In the pursuit of justice, the right (s) of the common man should be protected, and our clients are sure of their innocence,” defence counsel stressed.
Responding to the application for bail, Magistrate Ngegba said custody of the accused is not punishment, and he will refuse bail to ensure speedy trial because they are staying far from Makeni. He denied them bail and urged the state counsel to come with all his witnesses.
The matter was adjourned to the 3rd September, 2020.