By Janet A Sesay
The wife of former Minister of Defence, Isata Saccoh has been arraigned in court on two counts of conspiracy and unlawful possession of arms and ammunition.
Magistrate Hannah Bonnie of Pa Demba Road Court in Freetown presides over Isata Sacco’s case.
The accused is represented by Counsel Wara Serry Kamal while Adrian Fisher prosecutes for the state.
The accused was arrested, few days back, when police executed a search warrant on the premises of the former Minister, Alfred Paolo Conteh who is also held at the Pa Demba Road Male Correctional facility on treason charges.
The search was conducted following an attempted jail break last month where it was alleged that the break was to free Paolo Conteh from prison custody.
Although it was an attempt to free prisoners, the break was the most fatal in the history of Sierra Leone as it left dozens of inmates fatally injured.
The charge sheet indicates that the accused, Isata Saccoh, on diverse dates between 20th March and 29 April 2020, in Freetown, conspired with other persons unknown to commit a felony to facilitate the escape of a prisoner, Paolo Conteh from the Correctional Centre.
It was similarly alleged that the accused on the same day and at the same place was found in possession of small arm and ammunitions without licence.
She denied all charges brought against her by the state.
On the same day, the police exhibit clerk attached to the crime writers’ office, Inspector Nathaniel Tucker took the witness stand.
Led in evidence by Adrian Fisher, Inspector Tucker recognised the accused and recalled 11th May 2020.
He testified that on that day, he was on duty when Inspector Alimamy Alex Kamara handed over to him one empty black cloth, two boxes of ammunition with serial number p42E786 and 048k5V004, one locker and one magazine and one black pouch as exhibits.
“I took possession of the items and registered them in the court register against serial number 58|2020,” Tucker told the court.
The exhibits were tendered in court, and formed part of the evidence.
At this point, Defence Counsel, Wara Serry Kamara raised an objection that the date on the charge sheet which indicated that the accused was arrested was wrong.
Counsel Kamal argued that the accused was arrested in her presence during the search at their house at Belia Drive, Wilberforce in Freetown.
“The date they indicated on the file is inaccurate and which the prosecutor knows it is pre-fabrication to deceive the court to believe that the accused has not been detained at the Criminal Investigation Department where she spent three weeks,” Counsel Kamal argued.
She also submitted that the fabrication of the date was incredible putting the credibility of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) at stake, a force that prides itself as ‘Force for Good.’
Owing to the anomalies, Counsel Kamal insistently requested the court to order the police to correct their records.
“They know the day the accused was arrested, but refused to tell the truth,” she submitted.
She also objected that count one which states that the accused conspired with other person to commit a felony to facilitate the escape of a prisoner is unjust noting that the count is uncertain and duplicitous.
“The charge is defective and should be struck off by the court,” she emphasised.
She argued that the charge was brought in to deprive the accused of bail.
Counsel Kamal further urged the court to strike out the vague charge and allowed the court to proceed on the remaining count.
“My client did not know anything about the prison break as she was at her house at that time,” she argued.
In his response, Adrian Fisher submitted that the issue of date of arrest was not contentious adding that it was an administrative writing record for which other evidence before the court could adequately show.
Fisher also said he did not go into the substance of the matter in any shape or form as it did not disclose any arguable disclosure in law.
He further clarified that the offence of conspiracy is about an agreement to do an unlawful act.
“The offence charged on count one states the facilitation of an escape of a prisoner and the charge is simply put,” he submitted.
Fisher further intimated the court that the accused conspired with others to facilitate the escape of a prisoner which is an unlawful act and the Sierra Leone Correctional Service Act states that escape from custody is unlawful.
Having heard submissions from the state and defence counsels, Magistrate Bonnie promised to deliver a ruling on the next adjourned date.
Wara Serry Kamal made an application for bail on behalf of the accused on the grounds that she had been in detention for three weeks, and that the allegation against the accused is not true.
The prosecution objected to bail in a written document submitted to the Magistrate.
The accused was denied bail and the matter adjourned to 22nd May.
By Janet A Sesay