By Janet A. Sesay
Mahmoud Tim Kargbo, a journalist and an eyewitness to the alleged murder of journalist Ibrahim Samura, has testified before Justice Augustine Musa at the High Court in Freetown in the ongoing trial of former Mayor of Freetown, Herbert George Williams, and the Public Relations Officer of the opposition APC in the Western Area, Abu Barkarr Daramy.
Led in evidence by state lawyer Umu Sumaray, the witness said he is a freelance journalist attached to the Global South Development Magazine, and admitted to have known the deceased as well as the accused.
He recalled that, on the 31st March 2018, himself, Thomas Dixon and others were observing the 2018 general elections by moving from one polling station to another right down to the Waterloo axis in the Western Area. He further noted that they decided to visit respective polling stations in order to cast their vote.
‘‘I was the first to cast my vote because I live in the east. So we proceeded to Lightfoot Boston Street where Thomas Dixon also cast his vote followed by the deceased, as he resides at Hill Station. On our way, just by the Presidential Lodge, we met a group of security personnel, the 1st accused, Ibrahim Mansaray, and the former Mayor of Freetown. We were curious to know what was going on. The deceased, who was driving, stopped, and we alighted from the vehicle. When the group saw us, they on boarded their vehicle and sped off. So we boarded our own vehicle and continued to where the deceased cast his vote,” he explained.
He said, after the deceased had cast his vote, they used the same route towards Wilkinson Road when the deceased received information through a phone call that there was violence at Lumley, adding that they acted upon the information and drove to the scene.
”When we arrived, we saw a white Toyota Hilux that was destroyed. So we called the attention of other journalists, members of the civil society, the first accused and the people I mentioned earlier. We were on the other side of the street and the deceased took to the other side of the street to take a snapshot of the destroyed vehicle. As he was about doing same, one of the security guys slapped him. So I and Dixon and other CSOs rushed there to try to stop the beating. One of the policemen who was at the scene, grabbed the deceased to arrest him but we intervened and said he was not the one to be arrested. So ASP Samura intervened and ordered his release and further asked him to make an official report,’’ he added.
At this juncture, Lawyer Sumaray asked whether the witness could recall his statement to the police dated 6th April 2018 at the Lumbly Police Station; the witness said he remembered making the said statement at the police station which he had duly signed.
Lawyer Sumaray raised concerns over what she referred to as ‘material inconsistencies’ in the witness’ statement to the police and his evidence in Chief, and made an application pursuant to Section 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 74 of the Courts Act of 1965, for the witness to be declared hostile.
Defense lawyer for the first accused, Melron Nicol Wilson, objected to the said application and argued that the correct legal procedures required in declaring a witness hostile were not duly followed by the prosecutor, arguing that the prosecution had not referenced the correct legal statutes, which are applicable to the declaration of any witness as hostile.
He added that such an application can only be made when a witness states something materially different in his statement to the police and that of his/her evidence in chief.
The judge overruled the prosecution’s application for the witness to be declared hostile on the grounds that he was yet to see the prevailing circumstances, under which a witness can be declared hostile, citing the instance of material inconsistencies and ordered that the prosecution sought clarification in respect of the witness’ testimony to the police and his evidence in chief.
Under cross-examination, by Lawyer Wilson, on behalf of the 1st accused, the witness recalled making a second statement to the police on the 9th January 2020, stressing that the first accused did not attack the deceased.
Defence lawyer for the second accused, Lansana Dumbuya, argued that the need for the witness to make a second statement to the police came at the request of the police who were seeking further clarifications.
In reply, the witness said the police called him for a second interview where he was asked to tell those were involved in the said attack on the deceased, adding that he had told them in response that it was the security personnel and not the 2nd accused that were involved in the attack on the deceased.
He added that he had never known the second accused as a security personnel or a State House guard.
The prosecution alleges that the accused- Abu Bakarr Daramy and Herbert George Williams- on the 31st of March 2018, in the Western Area of Freetown, murdered journalist Ibrahim Samura.
The matter was adjourned to Tuesday 29th September 2020.