By Alhagie Jobe
Runaway Gambian journalist and Managing Director of the private and Independent radio station Teranga FM was Wednesday sentenced in absentia to a mandatory jail term of 4 years with a fine of D200, 000 in default to serve 2 years imprisonment.
This came after the court found him guilty of six counts of sedition and a count of publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public. He was also found guilty of acting on the same seditious intention by publishing and distributing a seditious phrase.
Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay was charged with intent to excite disaffection against His Excellency the President, Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhagie Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh and the Government of the Republic of The Gambia when he acted with the same seditious intention by Publishing and Distributing pictures of a gun and five bullets, pointing towards the image of the President of the Republic of The Gambia on or about 17th July, 2015, at Sinchu Alagie Village and other diverse places.
Wednesday’s sentencing in absentia came after he escaped whiles receiving medical treatment at Edward Francise Small Teaching Hospital after spending more than 200 days in prison.
Justice Simeon Abi who delivered the verdict recalled that the prosecution called four witnesses to lead evidence in the case and that at the end of the prosecution’s case, the defence maintained that the second prosecution witness Fatou Drammeh was not completely cross-examined so her evidence should be expunged.
“This was objected to by the Director of Public Prosecution who stated that such circumstance should not warrant expunction of the evidence, as PW2 was partly cross-examined. Ceesay’s defence lawyer made a no-case submission, which was overruled and he (Ceesay) was called to open his defense but he opted to remain silent” she said.
According to her, while the case was ongoing for him to open his defence, Ceesay absconded from prison custody while under medication at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital but he was continued to be tried in absentia.
She then gave a rundown of the entire proceedings saying she had received evidences and submissions from both parties but the seditious message sent by Ceesay is capable of inciting fear and lawlessness in the country, considering the fact that there was an attack on the State House just six months before. “Therefore, anyone who received such message will be in a state of fear” she said, saying the accused is found guilty of the offences charged.
Defense Lawyer C. Gaye who stood in for Journalist Ceesay in her plea of mitigation, urged for mercy saying her client is a first time offender and a young man of only 26 years and at the time of his arrest he was gainfully employed as the managing director of Teranga FM radio. She urged the court not to impose a custodial sentence but a fine.
The judge in her sentenced convicted Ceesay on count 1 and 2 to a mandatory jail term of 1 year and a fine of D100, 000, while on count 3, 4, 5 and 6 he was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment and a fine of D100, 000 and in default of paying the fines he shall serve an additional 2 years imprisonment. On count 7 Ceesay was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment. The court also ordered that this sentence shall take effect any date the convict is apprehended and further ordered the police to effect arrest on the convict on sight as he is a fugitive.
Meanwhile, this week alone, two journalists from the state broadcaster and the Director General are all detained that the National Intelligent Agency for reasons still unknown.
Gambia is a country with absolutely no press freedom. The country’s parliament passed laws that severely hamper press freedom.