Justice Kumba Sillah Camara, presiding judge in the murder trial of the nine former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on Tuesday ordered the Gambia Prison Service to stop handcuffing the accused persons when coming to court and going back to Mile II Prison after court sittings.
The order came following a verbal notification to the court by Defense Counsel C.E Mene standing in for the first accused person Yankuba Badjie.
He told the court that the rights and dignity of the accused persons should be respected as they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“In last court sittings, they are brought in court with handcuffs. Bringing them in handcuffs seems they are criminals. They are innocent until proven guilty. They deserve rights and dignity and this is a serious matter that the court should intervene” he said.
The Deputy Director of Public Prosecution AB Abubakar replied saying they are not aware of the rights of the accused persons been violated and if so, they don’t support it.
This prompted Justice Sillah-Camara to call the attention of the most senior Prison Officer in the escorting team to explain the reason behind the handcuffing of the accused persons when coming to court and going back to the prison. The prison officer replied that the handcuff is for security reasons but quickly noted that they are never handcuffed inside the court room.
“We only handcuff them when coming or going but not inside the court” the officer said.
Defense Counsel Moses Ritchards standing in for Sheikh Omar Jeng, the 3rd accused person rose up and informed the court that with the number of PIU officers deployed to escort only nine accused persons and the number station within and outside the court premises, there is no need to handcuff the accused persons. He urged the court to order that the action be stopped immediately.
Justice Sillah-Camara then made an order saying the accused persons shall not be handcuffed when coming to court or going back to the prison unless they are at flight risk.
“If you see that they are at flight risk, you inform the court but don’t handcuff them” she ordered.