A leading official of the opposition APRC party Fabakary Tombong Jatta, has told journalists today in Banjul, during a news conference that the order recently issued by High Court judge Amina Saho Ceesay, to freeze the assets and bank accounts of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, was not only unlawful, but unconstitutional. Mr. Jatta said the government’s action amounts to witch hunting, illegal freezing and undermining the peace deal that was sealed by the West African leaders, and the United Nations, to facilitate the peaceful exit of Jammeh from the presidency. “The freezing order is unlawful and unconstitutional. It grossly violates the right to personal property, as well as to the provisions of section 69, subsection 3,  A, and B of the 1997 Constitution, which deals with immunity from civil and criminal proceedings; which reads: After a president has vacated the office of president: (A) no court may entertain any action against him or her in any civil proceedings in respect of any act done in his or her official capacity as President,” Jatta argued.

Justice Amina Saho, the daughter of Gambia’s former Justice Minister, under Jawara’s rule, was onetime jailed by the government of former President Yahya Jammeh on alleged corruption charges. She was later pardoned and released from state custody. Justice Amina Saho-Ceesay, was said to have allegedly embezzled an amount of D2, 000.000 (two million Dalasi) and US$1000 between 2005 to 2009 while working for the former Gambian government, according to the Point Newspaper publication dated December 18th, 2009. 

“Justice Amina Saho-Ceesay was first arraigned on 2nd December 2009 and subsequently remanded in custody. She again appeared on 3rd December 2009 when she was granted a court bail in the sum of D4m with three Gambian sureties, all of whom must have a landed property within the Greater Banjul Area. The bail condition further stipulated that she should be reporting to the court every Friday, and also ordered to deposit her travelling documents with the court,” the paper added. 

The accused persons in that case were: Justice Ngui Mboob Janneh, Justice Amina Saho Ceesay, Justice Saffiatou Njie (said to be out of the jurisdiction), Haruna Jaiteh, ex-Judicial Secretary and Alhagie LS Sonko ex-bailiff of the high court, are all standing trial on charges ranging from neglect of official duty, to stealing by public officer, aiding and abetting a public officer to steal, economic crime and forgery.

Mr. Jatta maintains that Judge Saho erred in law when she granted Justice Minister Bai Tambadou’s request to freeze Jammeh’s assets without giving due regards to the Constitution, which Jatta says is the supreme law of the land.

According to Mr. Jatta, section 69 of the Constitution also stated that “a criminal court shall only have jurisdiction to entertain proceedings against him or her in respect of acts or omissions alleged to have been perpetrated by him or her while holding office as President if the National Assembly has resolved on a motion supported by not less than two-thirds of all the members that such proceedings are justified in the public interest.”

The APRC leader also said the injunction secured in court to freeze Jammeh’s properties tantamount to abuse of legal process. He said the government lacks evidence to justify its actions.

“It should be noted that their suit against the former president; of any court of jurisdiction in the Gambia, that may suggest or speculate guilt or wrongdoing by president Jammeh, which may warrant the introduction of such injunction. The party therefore notes with regrets that the blanket order to freeze the accounts that president Jammeh, has no knowledge or control over; E.G, the Jammeh hospital staff welfare account; the Jammeh foundation account; and African holding corporation account.”

Fabakary Tombong Jatta says the APRC leadership and its supporters are “deeply worried and concern about the path the government is taking by frreezing the assets of the former president without following due process.” 

“The court order is not in the spirit of reconciliation and under the diplomatic dialogue brokered by ECOWAS, African Union, ECOWA and Jammeh. The assurances of the safety, welfare of Jammeh, his family and party supporters were part of the agreement reached,” he said.

“The order can best be described as witch hunt and speculative. We therefore call on the AG to immediately reverse decisions by de-freezing Jammeh’s assets and accounts,” he noted.

On the Kanilai incident, Mr. Jatta blamed the ECOMIG forces for the killing of Hauna Jatta and the gunshot wounds inflicted on the villagers. He asked for the demilitarization of Kanilai saying the villagers are being routinely targeted for all sorts of harassment and punishment by the ECOMIG forces. 

“The residents continue to bear the brunt of the ECOMIG forces. They are subjected to punishment: ranging from monkey dance, and arbitrary detentions. The murderers who wronged the law are spared; while the peaceful protesters have been arrested and remanded,” he lamented. Jatta opines that it is not illegal under Gambian law to organize a peaceful protest. He said the constitution guarantees citizens to converge peacefully to protest against the government.  

Mr. Jatta told journalists that the newly arrived ferry was the brain project of former president Yahya Jammeh. He urged the government and ports workers to take good care of the ferry. He noted that the ferry is going to end the issue of travel delays and congestion at Barra and Banjul ferry crossing point.

Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai

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