Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Human rights defender denied bail
A magistrate in the Gambian capital, Banjul, Wednesday March 10, 2010, denied bail for Edwin Nebolisa Nwakaeme, the Director of programs at the Africa in Democracy and Good governance (ADG), who faces false information charges.
Magistrate Hilary Ubeke of the Banjul Magistrates Court rejected the bail application filed by defense counsel, Assan Martin, arguing that the offence committed, which is giving false information to the office of the president, was serious. He described the office of the president as a sensitive place, adding that any information that is sent there should be for the public interest. Mr Ubeke therefore ruled that the accused person be remanded pending the outcome of the case.
Defense Counsel Assan Martin argued that the offense is a misdemeanor which carries the penalties of D500 fine or 6 months imprisonment, and that pursuant to section 195 of the 1997 Constitution, it was baillable. Lawyer Martin went on to argue that the accused would comply with all the bail conditions, and was willing to provide surety who will comply with the courts and the bail conditions.
In its reaction, the prosecution said it was not objecting to the bail application since it is an issue for the court to decide.
The prosecution also applied under section 169 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) for amendment of the particulars of offense which reads: "seek nomination of Ms Mariam Jammeh, daughter of the President of the Republic of The Gambia as ADG's General Ambassador for the World Day [SIC] Celebrations 2009."
According to the prosecution, the statement substituting the particulars of offense stands as: "Edwin Nebolisa Nwakaeme, sometimes in the Month of March 2010 in the City of Banjul, Republic of the Gambia, you gave false information to the office of the President that African Democracy Organization and Good Governance is a non-governmental organization, which you know or have reasons to believe to be false."
Defense Counsel Martin raised no objection on the amendment, but at this juncture he applied again for review of the bail conditions "since the false information in question has no effect of causing any harm, or changing any work pertaining to the public service. It is just a question of what purpose does the organization itself stand for, whether it is a governmental, charitable or non-governmental organization."
However, Magistrate Ubeke overruled Martin, insisting that the matter is not about a question, but about giving false information, and concluded that the bail conditions remains the same, and therefore ordered that the accused be remanded pending the out come of the case or the next adjournment date. He then adjourned the case to 22nd and 24th of March for hearing.
The prosecution told the court that he has three witnesses to call.
Nwakaeme was first arrested on Monday, 22nd February this year and detained until Thursday, 25 February, when he was released, only to be re-arrested the following day and released shortly without any charge. And until his appearance in court, he had been in detention at the serious Crime Unit at the Police Headquarters in Banjul since his latest arrest on Monday, 1st March.
Meanwhile, Police sources indicated that the authorities intend to seize the license of ADG and deport Edwin back to Nigeria. The sources said that the passport of the accused has already been seized from him.