By Momodou Justice Darboe
The state is contemplating slamming Yankuba Touray with ten more murder charges and other serious offences.
This disclosure was made on Monday by the attorney general and minister of justice during the trial of Mr Touray at the High Court in Banjul.
Yankuba Touray stands accused of causing the death of Ousman Koro Ceesay in 1995 but he refused to enter his plea when the charge of murder was read out to him on Monday, saying he was relying on his purported constitutional immunity and would not enter a plea.
Presiding, Justice Ebrima Jaiteh said the charges have been read out to Touray but since he told the court that he had entered a plea of constitutional immunity, the court will enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
But the attorney general and minister of justice, Abubakarr Tambadou representing the State, rose up to admit that the court was indeed right to enter a plea of not guilty on Touray’s behalf under the circumstances. However, he argued that Touray’s refusal to enter a plea and his claim to constitutional immunity should be viewed as a challenge to the jurisdiction of the high court to hear and determine the murder charges against him. He added that it was a challenge that cannot be ignored.
Still addressing the court, the justice minister argued that the claim to constitutional immunity by Touray is ambiguous and too broad to address its specificity. He said that there is no provision of the constitution that Touray has sought to invoke. He explained that the state did not know what type of immunity or category of offences Touray was claiming immunity for.
Interjecting, the presiding judge elucidated that Yankuba Touray has a right to remain silent and not enter a plea if he so wishes and that the onus lies on the prosecution to prove its case as issues raised were not preliminary objections.
But in his reply, the attorney general and minister of justice countered that Yankuba Touray cannot arrogate to himself the power to determine immunity and that it was not for him to hold his defense. He referred the court to section 127 of the constitution or referral of the matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation.
He disclosed that if the high court deemed to proceed with the matter despite the challenge to its jurisdiction posed by the issue of constitutional immunity, the prosecution wishes to seek for an adjournment because it was in the process of amending the indictment to add at least ten additional counts of murder and other serious offenses. Tambadou explained that this would be needed to allow Touray prepare his defense consistent with his right to a fair trial. He therefore asked the court to adjourn the case until after the vacation.
But Abdoulie Sisokho, one of Touray’s lawyers, insisted that the matter should in fact be adjourned to next week for daily-basis trial as the proposed amendment was not yet before the court. He also argued that there was nothing before the court to warrant any referral of the matter to the Supreme Court.
He consequently sought for bail to be granted to Touray arguing that the status quo has changed in relations to murder and treason, querying why the matter should be adjourned for even 15 minutes. He said the Slogan New Gambia should start with Yankuba Touray’s case.
After some arguments, the presiding judge adjourned the case to 15 July for ruling on the submissions.