The Gambia Update: Court acquits newspaper worker facing sedition charges

Mass Kah, a messenger of Foroyaa, a privately-owned newspaper in The Gambia, was acquitted of sedition charges by the Kanifing magistrate court on September 9, 2014.

The trial magistrate Aji Amie Jagne acquitted and discharged Kah after declaring that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Kah’s case began on November 14, 2013, when he was arrested after a verbal exchange between him and two men over his comments on a photo of the president. Kah made several comments that were considered insulting to the president, including asking a supporter of President Jammeh to paste the “photo of the president on the sky.”

He was reported to the police and held in custody for two days, when he was transferred to the custody of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul. Furthermore, NIA officers arrested the only witness to Mass Kah’s case, a tailor named Morr Jagne, on November 22, and held him for three days.

Kah denied the sedition allegation against him. On November 27, he was arraigned before Magistrate Isatou Janneh of the Kanifing Court and charged with one count of sedition contrary to section 51(1)(a) of The Gambia’s Criminal Code.

The State later amended the charge from a violation of Section 51(1)(a) to a violation of Section 52(1)(b) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 10:01, Volume III of the Revised Laws of The Gambia, 2009. He was subsequently granted bail of Dalasi100, 000 (about $2800) along with two Gambian sureties.

During the trial, the judge said the information on the charge sheet was different from the evidence presented by the witnesses of the prosecution. According to the charge sheet, Kah “with willful intention uttered a statement against the photo of the President of The Gambia, which one Lamin Camara was pasting on his vehicle opposite a tailoring workshop, asking: ‘why not you paste the said photo of the President on the sky?’ And thereby committed an offence.”

The court held that such a statement could not bring hatred, disaffection and disrespect to the person of the president and therefore dismissed the charges against Kah.

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